Khakhanate Book 2: The Crow by Tom Lankenau - HTML preview

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Khakhanate
Book II
The Crow
Copyright © 2009 Thomas Lankenau
For Deena
1
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 its task. I recall being afraid to break the silence and remained quite still throughout the ceremony. Never since have I ever witnessed such reverence at a funeral.

When we returned home, my father gave away all Grandfather’s things to the servants and then sat down to read his memoirs. When my father finished, he called the family together and told us about the memoirs and urged us all to read them. I was probably the last to read them, since I was just learning to read at the time and was hardly ready for such a tome. But when I did finally read the book, I was completely captivated and plagued everyone with questions raised by it. I wanted to know more about the old land, the frozen north, the oceans, the plains, the northern people, the southern people; in short, I was a real nuisance. It was at this time my siblings began calling me the Crow. At first they called me Karl, then began calling me “Little Raven” after my grandfather; soon my constant pestering earned me the name “Crow.” Since Grandfather narrowly avoided the same name, I suppose it was inevitable and I was young enough to get used to it and eventually take pride in it.

It was no wonder that I would be curious about the world, for I had spent all of my short life in Cuauhnahuac, except for occasional trips to Tlatelolco and a few of the other cities of Anahuac, and there was much about which to be curious. My parents had both been born far to the northwest and had both (especially my father) seen much of the world. My mother’s children were also born in the northwest, while most of my father’s children were born in Cuauhnahuac. My brothers and sisters were only at home occasionally during my childhood, they were all so much older than me, and my father believed in sending us to stay with our northern relatives for years at a time to keep us “from getting jaded.” By the time I was old enough for such a trip, only one of my sisters, Mathilde, was back at home and she was about to marry.

Grandfather mentioned my parents in his memoirs, but he only fleshed out my father a little. Since my father was his youngest son and spent very little time with him, that is not surprising. Still, I think he missed some of the man. He was most dedicated to healing the sick and worked tirelessly in that capacity— - readily interrupting whatever else he was doing to help anyone who was ill. He was also no respecter of persons, spending just as much time and effort on a slave or a beggar as on a wealthy merchant or even a relative. He had no patience with malingerers, however, and gave any that took up his time a rather strong laxative. His efforts were not always successful, but whenever he lost a patient, it was not because he didn’t try everything to save him. On the other hand, when I was a child, I always found him distant and rather melancholy. The only time I remember him seeking me out was when he heard that there was an outbreak of the Zhen plague nearby and he gathered me up and rushed there, so that I could have the disease as a child when it was more easily endured. He was quite attentive to me and the other sick in the stricken town, making sure we did nothing to exacerbate the symptoms. His attentiveness was such a pleasant surprise to me that I made the mistake of faking illness after we returned and received his usual remedy along with a thorough dressing down. I never tried that again, and indeed I was very rarely ill. He had also given me the treatment that prevents the barbarian pox, but I was too young at the time to remember it. Other than these events, I had little contact with him until much later, not too long before he died.

My mother is just mentioned in Grandfather’s book, and I suppose that was not strange since he hardly knew her, and even though they lived in the same house for his last years, she was rather quiet and unobtrusive. She also had an air of melancholy about her, and I always preferred the company of my siblings and the servants to either of my parents. It was not that she wasn’t attentive to me, for she was a most conscientious mother, and the household was smoothly run, and all needs met. It was just that she wasn’t good company. Some years later, I mentioned our parents’ lugubrious aspect to my sister Mathilde, and she suggested that it was because they had both been in love with someone else and had lost those loves prematurely. While they were the best of friends, they still pined for their lost loves. She may have been right, since she knew our mother before she met my father, but Mathilde was quite young at the time, and perhaps it was just a bit of romanticism on her part. I did not really feel connected to my mother either, but was moved at her passing because of Mathilde, who deeply mourned her.

My father’s children were Ignace, Sarah and Theodore. Ignace was twenty years older than me and was only home on rare visits. He had become a soldier and was posted to an Ordu somewhere in the west while I was growing up. He had married Goa, a woman from Coosa (one of the Southeastern towns), whom he had met while he was staying with his Ani’ Yun’-wiya relatives. He had a broad physique, a short stature, and a propensity to stand very still and very straight making him look more like a slab of dressed stone than a man. He was a man of few words, and those were mostly barely audible grunts, further contributing to his lithic aspect. Goa was very reserved and very polite. She was expressionless and impossible to befriend since one could never feel any warmth from the woman. It was impossible to tell if they were happy together, but they did remain together until their deaths and had four children who were nearly as inscrutable as they were. I never got to really know them and was guilty of wondering if they even knew each other. Sarah had married a local man, Tepeyolotl, a Tlahuica merchant who took her on many of his travels. She was a cheerful person, with a sturdy build and a well-developed sense of fun. She teased all of us, but especially and unmercifully Ignace, whenever he was around. She always brought me something back from her many travels. Tepeyolotl was a wonderful man, tall and strong; he would toss me up on his shoulders and tell me all about the strange lands he had visited and the various things for which he had traded there. They eventually had five children with whom I became more acquainted between exiles, but more of that later. Theodore had become a healer like our father and had married Mahwissa, a Dzitsiista whom he had met during his travels in the north. He was very kind and thoughtful, although he also was very quiet. He was often lost in thought, much like our father and also undertook many journeys. He was the most patient with my questions when he was at home. He eventually moved to the Blue Sky Khanate and I rarely saw him as a child. Mahwissa was a very sweet and quiet lady. She, too, was most kind to me and with the utmost patience taught me her native language. They had three children, but I only met one of them once when he was an adult.

My mother’s children were Sealth, Taiwit, and Mathilde. Her first husband had insisted on naming the boys, but allowed her to name the lone daughter. Sealth, and Taiwit were both soldiers, the former stationed with his father’s old Ordu, the Salmon and the latter with the Pelicans. Sealth had married Kudeitsaakw, a ‘Lingit woman he had met while on patrol off the coast north of the Ordu. (This alliance would serve me handsomely during my second exile.) Sealth was a tall, broad-shouldered man who seemed to radiate quiet strength and selfconfidence. Kudeitsaakw was a cheerful though shy and self-conscious lady who was very fond of me and always made a big fuss over me when they visited. They had two children after a long barren time and I didn’t meet them until after my second exile. Taiwit had married Simahi, an A’palachi woman he had met when he was taken to her town after a fall while he was serving as a courier. He was much like Sealth, except that he was friendlier and had a weakness for strong drink. Simahi was a strong woman who did all she could to cover up Taiwit’s weakness, but things eventually caught up with them. They had no children. Finally there was Mathilde. She was only nine years older than me and had returned from her sojourn among her Salst relatives when I was five, just before Grandfather’s death. She taught me to read and write the old language as well as Mongol and Nahual. She also taught me Salst, Nimipu, and Siksika and together we prepared dictionaries of all the languages I had learned using the Uighur script. It resulted in some awkward pronunciations at times, but helped me remember the languages well enough to converse in them. She was a wonderful girl, always eager to teach me and help me find the answers to all my questions. We both spent many hours together pouring over my father’s books.

Because of his rather narrow medical focus, one would not have expected my father to have as many books as he did. He did, indeed, write down his discoveries in his field, and he would get a copy of any musings from a colleague that had been written down, but by far the bulk of his library was nonmedical. He had kept all of Grandfather’s books and treated them with great respect and made sure we did as well. Grandfather didn’t mention it in his book, but after he retired, he spent most of his time making sure that all the things he had learned in the old land were written down. His remarkable memory was as sharp as ever and had filled many books, all in Mongol, covering the many subjects he had studied and mastered. Copies of these had been made and sent to the Khakhan and both southern Khans. It was a bewildering mass of information. Grandfather had even compiled a dictionary of the Hanjen picture writing, but after spending a little time comparing it to that of the Nahual and Maya, I decided the latter were easier to figure out and gave up on the former. Another remarkable thing I remember was a book that had plans for many different things including a kind of weapon that hurled fire through the air at the enemy. This weapon required a kind of fuel with which I was unfamiliar, but he included instructions on finding such a fuel and preparing it for use. As it happened I was not the only one impressed with this device, and it was eventually made and kept secret until its surprise use at a most opportune moment.
I was a bit miffed at first when Mathilde met her future husband, because she no longer had as much time for me. But she was so happy, I put aside my disappointment and became her confidant and courier. The young man was Aspenquid, a member of the Pesmokanti, one of the northeast bands. He had joined the local Ordu and because of his remarkable skill on horseback had become a courier. In this capacity, he had traveled all over the northeast and had finally happened to be sent to Tlatelolco. He had become ill while waiting to return and had been sent to my father for treatment. He and I became fast friends during his recovery, and after I got over my initial jealousy, I cheerfully served as a messenger between him and Mathilde. After their marriage they decided to go back to his Ordu, the Panthers, to live and I was sent along to be delivered to the Ani’ Yun’-wiya along the way. They eventually had five children all of whom are still fairly close to me and irregularly keep in touch with me, even during this exile.

Of course Mathilde was not charged with all my education in Cuauhnahuac. My father did not like the Mexica calmecac schools which were long on teaching discipline and short on education, so he instead had Qualiameyatl, an educated young man from Chalco, come and teach me for a fee. Through his efforts, I was fully schooled in the Nahual language and taught to read the picture writing. It was becoming obsolete (except on monuments) however, since the language had been put into the Uighur script and was being widely taught that way. Many of the more worthwhile books were being translated into the script from the pictures to make them more available generally. The Tlahuica had led the people of the basin in adopting the script and teaching most of their people to read and write, but others had been slowly following their example and even the Mexica had come on board. I was also taught the Maya language and picture writing. Actually, it wasn’t exactly picture writing, but a combination of some pictorial representation and syllabic symbols. It was like a compromise between Nahual and Hanjen. Here, also, there had been an attempt to wean the Maya away from their difficult picture writing to the Uighur script, but except for the ever pliable Putun Maya, little progress was made among them, and few knew the script. Qualiameyatl also taught me the history of the Nahual-speaking people. It seemed to me little more than an attempt to prove that they were the greatest people ever spawned, and when I complained to my father, he said it was useful to understand how a people viewed themselves even if the vision was flawed by tribal tunnel vision. Had I understood his warning, I might have avoided my first exile some years later.

My brother Theodore taught me a little of the healing arts, enough to protect myself should ill befall me while in between towns. He readily admitted that I had no aptitude for his art, but did the best he could. He also taught me how to recognize and avoid poisonous plants and snakes and what to do should I fail to avoid them. This instruction saved my life more than once.

My father sent me for a winter down to Texcoco to a calmecac school run by the ruling family of that city. He wanted to expose me to Nahual poetry and literature and perhaps some art. He felt that in Texcoco I would become acquainted with the highest expression of Nahual culture. I was received most cordially and treated quite well, but again was found to hold no detectable talent in the arts, and, frankly, insufficient appreciation for them. In fact, I was bored to death by their poetry and found their literature bewildering. The art was a bit grotesque, but quite colorful. I did not, however, betray any skill in that realm either. What I did enjoy in Texcoco were the wonderful gardens the speaker or ruler, Nezahualcoyotl, had planted. I spent many hours in them befriending the tame animals that were kept there, and I returned home with a pet animal, a large blue and yellow parrot (the kind called chiconquetzalin in Nahual). He had a large beak and an interesting vocabulary of insults in the Otomi language (he had belonged to an Otomi feather merchant). He was a gift from Nezahualcoyotl, who appreciated my fondness for animals. Had he not given me the bird, I doubt if my father would have let me keep it. As it was, it would have been bad manners to get rid of a gift from the speaker of Texcoco.

I named the parrot Cuauhtzin (Little Eagle) and we were inseparable friends until I was sent north. He had a remarkably loud voice that on occasion was earsplitting. Because of this, he and I were relegated to a small servant’s house some distance from the main house during much of the day. He was very quiet at night and I was allowed to have him in my room as long as I cleaned up after him. He was quite a guano factory, and it was a nasty business cleaning up in the morning until the intervention of one of the more ingenious and thoughtful of our servants, a mysterious Otomi who insisted that we call him Tetl (rock in Nahual—hardly a proper name). He devised a sort of flatbed cart made of wood with a branch in the middle that served as a perch for Cuauhtzin and confined his mess to the cart which could be much more easily cleaned and occasionally replaced. Tetl loved the bird as much as I did and would help me with him when he could. I rewarded Tetl with most of the feathers Cuauhtzin shed (quite a prized commodity in the markets), and I entrusted him with his care during my absence in the north as well as my subsequent exiles until I returned from my second one. He never disappointed me and always returned the bird to me in the best of health and spirits. Tetl died shortly after I left Anahuac for the last time. Cuauhtzin and I were parted for a while during my time in the Khanate of the Clouds, but we were reunited once I was sent here. He is still with me but is quite old and seems a little feeble. He is probably quite a few years older than me and I don’t know how much longer he can live, but I prize him and will do all I can to make him happy and comfortable for whatever time he has left.

Returning to my education, my brothers Sealth and Taiwit both had hands in teaching me to use the bow and the lance. I had a lot of trouble with both, but finally did get fairly good with the bow. I was too clumsy for the lance and was usually quickly disarmed in practice. They were not optimistic about my chances of a military career. Everyone had a hand in teaching me to ride, and in this I was quite adept. My only problem here, according to my siblings, was that I loved the horse too much. They felt it was better to remain in command of the horse and have him do as you instruct out of fear or respect and not out of friendship. But I couldn’t help it, I loved horses and they knew it. Only a few of them did not return that love, and their previous handlers had jaded them.

My fondness for animals was not limited to horses and parrots. I also became quite a nuisance by befriending the domesticated animals and vigorously protesting their inevitable slaughter. I would self-righteously refuse to eat my “friends” and would glare accusingly at the rest of the family while they ate. Hypocritically, I would have no trouble eating a “strange” animal. This distinction began to blur when my brothers started taking me hunting with them. I very much enjoyed the tracking and stalking of the animals, but I soon developed a fondness for the prey and could not bring myself to kill them, nor would I allow anyone else to kill them. I think it is safe to say I was sent away to the north just in time. My entire family was convinced that unless they intervened my only future would be as a courtier, and they felt they could not allow me to become such a parasite.

I was actually quite excited about the trip and eagerly prepared for my great adventure. I was especially happy that Mathilde and Aspenquid would be with me for the entire journey. On the other hand, I was surprised and quite upset when told the climate in the north was too cold for Cuauhtzin and he would have to remain behind. This was made tolerable only by Tetl’s assurance that he would care for him. I am ashamed to admit that after fussing over him the day before I left, I ran out before light the morning we left without giving him a thought, and in fact only remembered him when we stopped at a inn that evening and came upon another traveler who had his pet chiconquetzalin with him. His was one of the mostly red ones and it only spoke the Purepecha language, which I didn’t understand. It brought home to me my own fickleness and made me see myself in an unflattering light. It was a valuable lesson

2
Itsati, 83–5 K
(E. TN, 1451–3)

My soul-searching only lasted until we began our ascent of the pass between the volcanoes, the same pass my grandfather had used to enter Anahuac so long ago. It was much as he described it, except that it didn’t snow on either of the peaks although they both had some snow on them. He had not exaggerated the cold once we were above the trees; it was numbing. I really didn’t have much trouble breathing like some of his men did. Still, I was quite happy to regain the protection of the trees on the other side of the pass.

Everything was new and exciting for me during that trip. Mathilde had presented me with my own copy of Grandfather’s book, which she herself had made for me, and I eagerly compared our route with his. Ours was much more direct, and there were no sieges or battles, but we passed through a land prosperous and at peace, with many large towns and cities bustling with activity. We only rarely stayed at what Grandfather called yams. These had been replaced with comfortable inns most of the way in our Khanate. When we left the Huaxteca lands into the more barren frontier between the Khanates, the yams predominated and the comfort level dropped precipitously. We stayed in the conical hide tents with dirt floors covered with some skins or old blankets. The food was usually dried meat added to mondamin (or centli as we called it in Nahual) stew. The villages were only a little better and I began to get concerned about my future for the next few years. Eventually we reached the towns of the Hasinai Confederacy and I took heart, for these had spacious, clean, and comfortable inns for visitors, and the food was plentiful and excellent.

We had begun the trip in the fall, and it was late winter when we turned off the trade road to go to the Pelican Ordu and visit my brother Taiwit. Once we left the coast, the climate grew cooler and there was snow on the ground after a few days. It was not deep, but it was my first direct exposure to it (I had, of course, seen it from a distance on the mountaintops at home), and I was fascinated. This was quickly eclipsed by my first encounter with an Ordu. We had been following the Ishak River upstream from the coast, and the trail was on the eastern side of the river above the floodplain and through a dense wood. Occasionally the woods would give way to a large clearing and a town with its fields would come into view. Eventually we came to a huge clearing with large tracts of fields on the cleared bottoms of both sides of the river, we went up a small rise, and there spread out was a vast tent city. It seemed larger to me than Cuauhnahuac, but the latter is scattered among hills, not concentrated like an Ordu. A large contingent from the Ordu was practicing maneuvers on horseback just beyond the camp, and I had to be pulled along to snap me out of my reverie.

One might think I would have encountered an Ordu by now, but I hadn’t. With peace prevailing in Anahuac, they were rarely on the move, and all were situated away from but nearby the major trade routes. There was one Ordu in the central valley of Anahuac, but it was in the north. There were also three others within a hard day’s ride from Tlatelolco, the capital of Anahuac, but I had never had occasion to visit them. I wanted to see everything and we spent several days there so I was able to do so. I was pleased to find I could ride as well as the children raised in the Ordu, but they were much better with weapons than I was, even the bow with which I thought I was proficient. I was only as good as the worst of them. They introduced me to the sword and taught me the rudiments of the weapon. I practiced with it faithfully and eventually got the hang of it. Taiwit surprised me with the gift of a small sword he had had made for me. I was also allowed to watch a test firing of one of the cannon Grandfather had been instrumental in developing. Finally, I was allowed to see a practice drill with the new handheld mini cannons that the now legendary Migizi had spent most of his life developing. They were frightening weapons, although they did not impress most of the warriors, since they had a poor range and were not very accurate. They did think it would be devastating to a massed attack, but only for one volley, after that it would be best to switch to the bow. Many years later, I saw that they were right.

I also got my first chance to see a yurt. Grandfather had lived in one a long time, but we all lived in houses in the south, and hide tents and thatch houses were the rule in the northern villages we had visited so far. In the Ordu, there were a number of yurts, but again the conical hide tent seemed to predominate. Taiwit lived in one of the latter, but a friend of his had married a Mongol woman who insisted on living in the yurt. It was larger than the tents and very comfortable, with rugs on the floor and wooden benches and chairs. I rather liked it. The woman, Borte, showed us all around with quiet pride and great pleasure. Her husband, Guatotente, a Ka-i-gwu, had become accustomed to it and insisted he preferred it. Remembering my grandfather’s comments about the Ka-i-gwu language, I prevailed upon Guatotente to teach me a little. Grandfather was right; the language was impossible.

When we left the Ordu, we traveled east to the Red River and the great Hasinai cities. We followed the river to the Missi Sipi River. This river dwarfed any river I had ever seen before. Since it was early spring and the river was rising, we had to be rowed across. The pontoon bridge had already been taken down in anticipation of the floods. The current was not yet strong and we came ashore near one of the Taunika villages. We moved on and eventually arrived at a Pansfalaya town. Everywhere we went we were received cordially, fed well, and given fresh horses. While there were some differences among the various tribes, it was not marked. I noticed that only the oldest of the Pansfalaya and Taunika had the deformed heads Grandfather had mentioned. I embarrassed my sister by staring at those we encountered. It was quite rude, but I had never seen anything like it and had always been curious as to what they looked like. As Grandfather had suggested, the practice had been abandoned, and all of them have died off by now. I wondered how much the people had changed since he had first traveled among them some seventy years before I did.

We soon turned north to the West Tsoyaha River, which we followed upstream. Here we came upon settlements of the Tsoyaha and the Southeastern Cities until we finally came to the Ani’ Yun’-wiya. This was a beautiful time to travel this way, for it was now late spring and the floods had already subsided and our path was filled with flowers, fruit trees in blossom, and fields with young bright green shoots of centli growing out of their little hills, surrounded with young bean, squash and melon plants, in the manner they are planted here in the north.

At last we came to the town of Itsati and I was introduced to my new family for the next few years. Iskagua was the nephew of Metztlaconac, my father’s first wife. He was a tall broad-shouldered man with a strong rugged face and the clear eyes of an honest man. He served as the shaman for the town and had the highest regard for my father. His wife was Ghigooie, a small pleasant woman with piercing eyes and a sharp wit. She reminded me of my sister Sarah. They had two sons, the older one was Gatagewi and the younger was Cimnashote. The latter was just my age. I was warmly embraced by all and accepted as member of the family. Mathilde and Aspenquid were also greeted warmly and pressed to stay a few days to be properly feasted.

The town was much like my father had said it would be. He had told me what to expect and how to behave. The houses were still as Grandfather described them, made of wooden planks or logs notched and stacked, then plastered with clay inside and out, although he didn’t mention that sometimes they were painted white with a lime solution. The houses were about seventy feet long and sixteen feet wide and were divided into three rooms connected with doors. The rooms were the cooking room, the dining room, and the sleeping room. Many houses had porches and separate storerooms and almost all had the small round dirt “winter house” for their sweat baths. The furnishings included wooden benches and beds, the latter with rush mattresses and hide, cotton, or woolen blankets. There were also baskets and pottery for storing things. The wool and cotton were trade goods.

The town was probably larger than Grandfather would have remembered, but it was still dominated by the huge town house, which was supposed to be large enough to hold the entire town for their meetings, which he hated. He said the house was round, but actually it was seven sided, one for each of the clans. When the meetings were held, everyone was supposed to sit with his clan. The clan affiliation was inherited from one’s mother, so Iskagua decided that I belonged to the same clan as his aunt, since she was my “mother,” so I sat with the Ani’Tsi’skwa or Bird Clan. He also belonged to the Bird Clan, but Ghigooie and her sons belonged to Ani’Ga’tagewi (Ga’tagewi was the name of a plant). I eventually grew to actually like the meetings, although I was too young to participate until my final year there.

When Mathilde and Aspenquid finally left, I stared after their caravan until it disappeared over a hill. I really felt that all with which I was familiar was gone. Still, I was only allowed so much time to adjust, and soon Cimnashote had me in tow and was showing me around the village and introducing me to all his friends. I looked strange to them, of course, but most of the adults had known my father and he was held in great esteem. Actually, I didn’t look much like my father, except for the pale skin and blue eyes. My hair was reddish brown at the time and my features rather favored my mother. I was also tall for my age and by the time I returned to Anahuac, I was taller than my father. The height kept me in good stead among the tall Ani’ Yun’-wiya, and I was immediately recruited to learn their game “little war,” the stick ball game so popular in this part of the land. My grandfather mentioned it in his narrative as well as the ball game of the south. They are nothing alike except in so much as they are very widespread in popularity. Tlachtli is played in many variations from the far western lands of the Hopitu-shinumu all through most of the Anahuac Khanate and even on the islands of the Taino. The “little war” is played by the Ani’ Yun’-wiya, the Pansfalaya, the Southeastern Cities, and had spread to their neighbors the Taunika, Timacua, Tsoyaha, and others. It was also played in the north by the Anishinabe and many of their neighbors and had spread east to the Leni lenape and even the several Mingue tribes. The northern version only used one stick and was usually less violent. Tlachtli is more of a contest between individuals to perform a difficult task, hit certain small targets with a ball without using their hands and without letting the ball hit the ground. While there were small teams, only one from each competed at a time, although the other members could pass in an errant ball. The ball was made of solid oli (about eight inches in diameter and rather heavy) and the players had strategically placed pads as part of their equipment. The “little war” was played by large teams, about twenty or so among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya, far more among the tribes to the south. The playing field was quite large and the deerskin ball was not too difficult to hurl over the goal markers with the sticks (about two feet long and bent over to form a loop at one end, with crossed cords effecting a sort of net to hold the ball). However, the game was called “little war” for a reason. Indeed, a player (who wore no protective gear at all) was allowed to do whatever he found necessary to get the ball to his team and expedite the scoring of points. This resulted in the sticks, as well as arms, legs, heads, or even bodies becoming weapons with frequently injurious results. Oddly, both games had religious elements. Tlachtli was seen as a symbol of a struggle to maintain the cycles of nature and fertility from the vagaries of the gods (at least among the Maya). The Mexica would occasionally use it for conjuring (the winner’s viewpoint obviously coincided with that of the gods), but usually it was just another medium for gambling. That was why my father had never permitted me to attend one; he despised gambling. The “little war” was preceded by a week of preparation, including fasting, rituals, dancing, and even some scratching of the players’ arms and legs. There was also some gambling on the outcome. Still, it was an exciting game to watch and I often regretted that I had to leave before I had a chance to play in a real one.

As children we were not actually allowed to play the game, but we were encouraged to get the feel for it with much running back and forth and practice with the sticks. The ball was considered a sacred object not to be touched by hand, so we had to improvise with a rough facsimile. Another game we practiced was also popular in the near south. It was called chungke and involved skill with a seven-foot-long lance. A disc-shaped stone was rolled on the ground by one player, and the other would try to hit the still rolling stone with his lance while the first would try to hit the other’s lance while still in flight. I never showed any talent for this game. We were also encouraged to experience and overcome hunger, cold, and pain. Such endurance was as highly prized as skill with the bow. This proved to be very valuable training.

There was also no getting out of hunting. I had been strongly urged by my sister to overcome my problem with hunting. She explained that the northern people greatly respected their prey, asking their permission to hunt them and thanking them for their acquiescence. I thought that while the hunter’s heart may have been in the right place, I doubted that any prey actually went along with this. Of course, she also pointed out that it would be insulting to my hosts if I didn’t do whatever they asked me to do, quickly and without comment. The look in her eye gave me the impression that I had better shelve my finer sensitivities and cooperate. After all, I was a long way from home. In fact, hunting was considered an essential part of manhood, second only to warfare. I worked hard to put aside my feelings and did my part to bring meat to the family. I never did enjoy it, however, and still don’t.

My education was not all hunt and games, of course. I was also taught how to make bows, arrows, blowguns, snares, traps, canoes, and even pottery. The bows and arrows were only for hunting or emergency, since the Mongol compound bow and iron tipped arrows were far superior in battle. The other skills were useful, although I must admit my attempts at pottery were not memorable. I was helped with my swordplay by retired warriors, happy to share their skills with a youngster. As I found out, the Mongol peace had caused some major changes in the Ani’ Yun’-wiya way of life.

In order to prove themselves as warriors, the young men had to go off and join an Ordu for training. Then they had to volunteer to go on the endless campaigns in the southern landmass. These would only be mounted every few years and the volunteers would be gone for quite a while. Most would return from the conflict, few would talk about it, except to compliment each other on particular acts of bravery. Still they held themselves with a certain air of dignity and confidence and were much admired by all. Those who either married young or felt it necessary to care for their parents and families and did not go, found it necessary to excel at bagging dangerous game like bear and panthers to prove their manhood. While no one openly questioned their courage, you could see they bitterly regretted their decision. I understand this situation prevailed among some of the other tribes also.

Perhaps the only man in the tribe who did not go on campaign and had no regrets was my Ani’ Yun’-wiya father, Iskagua. As a shaman, he had nothing to prove and was held in the highest esteem by everyone. When he was not caring for the sick or foiling evil spirits, he was much given to introspection and would sit for hours lost in his thoughts until he was needed again. Still, he found time to talk to all of us either together or alone to advise, admonish, and instruct. Gatagewi was the only one of us interested in becoming a shaman and he received quite a bit of training and instruction. Cimnashote wanted to be a warrior and tirelessly trained himself to that end. I went along with the latter since I found it more interesting than the shaman art. As it happened, I really wasn’t too sure what I wanted to make of myself, and indeed, would be hard-pressed to describe my chosen profession up to this point, although I think ne’er-do-well might come close.

Iskagua’s talks with me were difficult to characterize. He would answer any factual questions I asked directly, but if my questions were more philosophical or attempted to elicit his opinion, he would question me until I had answered the question myself. At first I found this annoying, but in time I realized he was helping me think logically and I came to greatly appreciate his help. Ghigooie also would talk to us, proffering advice and instruction. She felt we should know what we could eat should we not find any game and took us into the woods to show us what was edible and what was not. She also showed us how to plant and tend crops even though this was considered a woman’s job. She felt we should know in case we found ourselves alone. She had the long sight and had foreseen a need we would all eventually have, although in much different situations. We would try to get her to tell us our future, but she would just tell us to do our best and meet the future with no regrets.

Another great influence on my life was Oganaya. He had been a warrior for a long time. He had never married or raised a family, but had returned to his hometown to spend his last days. He left when he was about fifteen years old and had trained with the Manati Ordu in the Timacua Peninsula. He fought in the southern wars for five years, and then returned as jagun commander to train new recruits. He traveled extensively for over a year, then joined another campaign as minghan commander. He remained for twelve years and again returned to train recruits. He was offered command of the next campaign, but felt he was too old and too slow from his many wounds to take on such responsibility, although he went along as part of the staff. On his return from that campaign he retired and came home “to die.” He was only about fifty, but he looked older and moved only with a lot of pain.

He took a liking to me because he had met my uncle Theodore a long time ago and greatly respected him. He told me he would have preferred to serve under Theodore’s Ordu rather than those of the Blue Sky Khanate since he never would have used disease to defeat his enemy. I remembered what my father had added to Grandfather’s memoirs and suggested that perhaps the field commanders had not been aware of the strategy.

“Would that it were so, Crow,” he said, “but I know they knew. That was the real reason I could not accept command. Still, I went along for the sake of the men. I must admit it was a most effective weapon, but we are not exactly loved in the south.”

“One is never loved by those he conquers,” I pointed out.

“Not at first,” he shrugged, “but eventually you can win them over. Your uncle Theodore is loved by most. Of course, it was your uncle George who did most of the conquering and Theodore the winning over. Like your grandfather, he retired well loved.”

“My cousin George rules there now,” I said, puffing up a bit to be related to such powerful men. “Yes, but he is not like his father,” he frowned. “He is bent on conquest and is succeeding from what I hear.”

I had to admit I didn’t know much about George’s progress. My father never spoke of him as though he didn’t exist. When I had mentioned to him that I had heard George had succeeded Theodore, he had gotten angry and called Theodore a blind fool. He would not elaborate when I asked him about it, but instead insisted that I never mention his name again. I told this to Oganaya and he nodded.

“Your father had the measure of the man.”
“Why do you both despise a man who enables the young men to go to war?” I asked.

“A war for young men to prove themselves need not be a war of conquest. And even if it is, it need not be a war of bitterness. George and the Khan in the eastern part, Hutulu, are harsh conquerors. They destroy everything in their path, take everything of value and impose impossible tribute on the survivors. The result is constant revolts and ambushes. The men pay for their commander’s intransigence.”
“But Grandfather always wiped out any town or village that did not surrender.”

“Only if provoked by them, except for the campaigns of the wretched Kuyuk. There is something very wrong with the Khanate system, when it allows such unworthy swine such absolute power.”

 

“But it has brought peace to the land and no one ever suffers because of crop failures. Is not that worth the occasional bad ruler?”

“It is the peace that forces our young men to go so far away for so long a time to prove themselves. It makes those unable to go feel like lesser men. As to the crop failures, are they such a bad thing? Perhaps they are Asgaya’ Galu’ladi’s way of proving us. Is it such a good thing to frustrate his plans?”

Asgaya’ Galu’ladi was the Ani’ Yun’-wiya god. His name meant “Honored Man” and he was a sky god like Tengri. They also believed in a number of spirits with various functions, but did not bother with them as much as the Mongols used to with their ongons when they first came to this land. I couldn’t make much sense of Oganaya’s question, but I later asked Iskagua what he thought about Mongol rule. He, true to form, turned the question back to me. It went something like this as I recall.

“What should I think about Mongol rule?”
“It doesn’t matter what you think, I just wanted to know.”
“If it doesn’t matter, why do you want to know?”
“Your opinion is important to me.”
“But you just said it didn’t matter what I thought.”
“I meant, whatever your opinion was I would be glad to hear it.”

“As a good Mongol, I should think you would not be glad to hear that I did not approve of Mongol Rule, only if I approved it.”

If I didn’t have such a high regard for his opinion, I would not have gone to such trouble to elicit it. After more such verbal sparring, I finally told him what Oganaya had said and tried to get Iskagua’s view of the remark. Predictably, we went around for a while before he demanded my view first.

“Oganaya is a great warrior and a wise man, I cannot ignore what he said, yet to agree with him is to despise all my grandfather’s efforts.”

“So then, you want me to approve of your grandfather’s life’s work?”
“Not necessarily, I just wanted your opinion.”
“Why?”
“Because I respect your opinion.”

“Your grandfather did what he did with great energy, cleverness, inspiration, and dedication. He clearly thought he was doing what was best for his people first and for those who joined them second. Who am I to approve or disapprove of such a man?”

“But was he right to do what he did?”
“What do you think?”
“I think he thought he was doing the right thing.”
“Should not a man do what he thinks is the right thing?”
“Well, of course.”
“Then you have answered your question.”
“No, that’s not what I want to know. Do you think his effort has made the Ani’ Yun’-wiya better off?” “Do you?”
“Well, yes, I think so, but I’m not an Ani’ Yun’-wiya and am not in a position to judge.”
“Did we not welcome you into our family as a son?”
“Yes, but what does that have to do with...”
“Are we not Ani’ Yun’-wiya?”
“Yes.”
“Does that not make you, our new son, an Ani’ Yun’-wiya also?”
“Well, I suppose it does, but not as much a one as you.”
“Have Ghigooie and I treated you as less of a son than Gatagewi or Cimnashote?”
“No, of course not, you’ve been more than parents to me.”

“A curious thing to say, but to the point, what do you, an Ani’ Yun’-wiya, think of the legacy of the great Raven, one of the founders of the Khanate?”

“I think I need to discuss it further with my elders until I can form a proper opinion of it.”
“An excellent answer, go and do so. When you have formulated your opinion we will discuss it again.”

I never did find out what Iskagua thought about this or any other such subject. Ghigooie did feel the Mongols had done more good than harm and was especially pleased that they did not unduly interfere in the everyday lives of the people. Most of the other men I asked were positive about the Mongols; only Oganaya was negative. Yet it was to him I kept returning and talking. Unlike Iskagua, Oganaya was quite content to give an opinion on any subject without worrying about mine. Actually, it was a relief to talk to him, but ultimately a mistake.

We didn’t just talk of course, I also helped him with little chores and went hunting and fishing with him so I could help him. He was alone except for me, and quite grateful for my company and help. He was not entirely negative about the Mongols; he felt they were great warriors with wonderful weapons, remarkable organization, and devastating tactics. But he also felt they had made life too easy and war too one-sided. I asked him if he would really prefer to go into battle without an edge.

“No, but my edge should be my skill, not my weapon or my horse.”

I asked him about the campaigns in the south, and he regaled me at length about them, again unlike the others. On his first campaign, he was a mere soldier. After almost a year of training, he finally embarked on one of the large Koryo transports heading for the south. They stopped on the large Taino island of Cuba where they were allowed ashore for a day. Then they followed the long chain of islands east at first, then south, stopping briefly along the way on Boriquen, Liamuiga, and Madinina Islands. The last stop was on Cara, the large island off the coast of the continent.

This was the second invasion under the command of the eastern governor, Kaidu. They were put ashore at the frontier encampment just east of the Warao River Delta. The people encountered spoke a language something like that of the Taino, and they also cultivated the yoce plant, but were not as organized or amenable to joining peacefully. Of course, they were not allowed to think about it, either, and the first village that refused to join was wiped out. Instead of moving the others to join, it caused them to melt into the dense jungle and subject all our movements to ambush. They would not stand and fight, but would simply fire a volley or two of arrows at the invaders, then disappear. The Mongols had to change over to laying ambushes also. This was most difficult given the vast variety and number of insects determined to devour anything that didn’t move fast enough. Eventually a suitable repellent was found, but the locals could soon smell it and more frustration followed. Once in a great while, an empty village was found and destroyed, but this brought little cheer. Very slowly, mostly by using the few locals that had been won over, they were able to advance along the coast and a modest distance inland. After the three years of his tour of duty were up, the amount of territory taken was embarrassing. He decided to stay for another tour and was made arban commander. Over the next two years, the progress was far better, but still slow. Due to his exemplary service, Oganaya was promoted to jagun commander and sent back to the Alligator Ordu to train recruits in the more difficult tactics necessary for this type of warfare.

He was relieved to be out of the jungle, although the Alligator Ordu is in a close approximation of a jungle. After training men for two years, he was allowed to take some time off. He returned to Itsati, but was restless and soon moved on, visiting comrades in arms all the way across the Khanate. He eventually found himself on the west coast near the great bay named Raven for my grandfather. Oganaya continued south and wandered through the Khanate of Anahuac along the western coast. He stayed along the coast, never visiting Tlatelolco or the other great cities. Ultimately he found himself in the area ruled by my uncle Theodore. Oganaya went to visit the capital, Tamalameque, a great trading center along the Yuma River. He was impressed by the bustling city and presented himself at the governor’s palace where he was warmly welcomed and invited to stay. Uncle Theodore was a very down-to-earth man looking on everyone as an equal. His older son Ignace was much like him, but the younger, George, was haughty and cold.

While Oganaya was there, the surprise message came down that his brother George had named Theodore khan of his province. He would remain subordinate to George, of course, and ultimately to Jelme, the Khakhan, but Theodore could rule otherwise as he saw fit. The new Khanate (which he named the Khanate of the Clouds because of the huge mountains in its midst) would continue to be the proving ground for the Ordu of Anahuac. He was mostly interested in mapping and trade, but would use the Ordu to crush any tribe or town that dared attack a trade or mapping expedition. Neighboring towns and villages were invited to join, but were allowed not to do so. There was a good feeling in the new Khanate; trade was booming and prosperity was spreading around nicely.

Oganaya decided to return to the eastern campaign and went north to one of the prospering Putun Maya colonies among the Tairona cities and secured passage to the island of Cara. When he landed, he found out that the east had also become a Khanate with Kaidu as the new Khan. He called his realm the Khanate of the Green Mist. Oganaya felt that was a most appropriate name. He offered his services to the local commander and was immediately sent to the frontier as minghan commander. The frontier was not as far as he thought it might be. It seemed that the advance was halted about two years after his departure and attempts were made to consolidate the gains and pacify the locals. This was only partially successful, and travel was often hazardous.

While the troops were still gathering at the frontier, a mysterious group of men came ashore with many bundles. Their leader went to meet the commander of the campaign, Kaidu’s son, Hutulu. Shortly afterward, Hutulu came out rubbing his hands with glee and ordered his second in command, Ananda, to join him. Ananda emerged with a grim look and put together a small group for a special mission. These and some local guides took the bundles and, crossing the frontier river, proceeded inland. The mysterious group of men returned to their ship and left. Some weeks later, just as the campaign was about to start, the men returned from their mission among the enemy.

Word filtered out that they had just been giving away bundles of blankets to our prospective enemies. That puzzled him. Soon some of the local guides who had gone with them came down with the Zhen plague. That puzzled him even more. The campaign was launched and found almost no opposition. Whole villages were dead and dying of the Zhen plague. The invaders were able to move rapidly along the coast and inland for some distance. Everywhere they went, the plague led the way. Many of their local auxiliaries also sickened and most died. The plague then spread westward and all the way back to Anahuac. Grandfather already wrote about that.

Oganaya and his men found themselves on little more than a mopping-up expedition. The plague spearheaded their advance. Resistance ended and whoever survived quickly surrendered or fled inland spreading the plague far afield. Oganaya and his men came to the great river named for Juchi and halted briefly while they extended their lines inland as much as three hundred li. Around the delta of the Juchi River there had been large cities with houses made of cedar planks. The people had deformed their heads something like the Pansfalaya used to do. The number of dead was appalling. There was no pleasure in this campaign and all the men were grim and getting angry. The halt enabled the survivors in the delta to consolidate into a few towns and try to rebuild their lives, but when the orders to advance were given, none of the towns resisted. Only Hutulu was pleased with the campaign and anxious to press his advantage. Had the ground been easier, it is most likely they would have reached the end of the landmass. The jungle finally gave out some fifteen hundred li beyond the Juchi River turning into a most pleasant grassland. That soon gave way to a semiarid scrub and thorn forest all the way to eastern terminus of the continent (which they reached fifteen years later). He left the campaign before they reached the terminus, but returned five years later, after they turned south. As they turned south, they encountered more jungle, more grassland, more jungle, and then forest along the coast, although farther inland it was mostly jungle. The resistance picked up after five years, but was only sporadic. After ten years, it was still not effective. It was twenty years into the campaign before resistance even slowed them down a little. Only the decision of the Khan finally halted their advance. Communication was becoming difficult and he wanted to move inland instead of along the coast. It had been almost thirty years since the campaign had begun when Oganaya finally left it for the last time and returned home “to die.” He had arrived in Itsati only shortly before I did. He died about a year after we met.

3
Itsati, 86–7 K
(1454–5)

Another person who influenced me while I was among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya was Necowee. He had also gone on campaign in the south, but only for six years and had returned with his new wife to raise a family. He was Ghigooie’s brother and was married to Wetosy, an Anishinabe. He had met her when he traveled around after returning from the south. (It seemed all the returning warriors felt the need to travel around on their return, and eventually I understood the need.) Like most of the veterans, Necowee was not inclined to discuss his experiences. I won him over by insisting that I was only interested in the big picture of the campaign, not the actual battles. I explained that I was most interested in Mongol history and I had heard little from the south, except for what Oganaya had told me. As I hoped, he also told me about the battles in which he took part.

It turned out that Necowee had served under my cousin Ignace during one of the western campaigns. It seemed that his group of recruits had been given the choice of serving in either Khanate. Since they had heard from returning veterans that the eastern campaign was only a mopping-up operation, they volunteered to go to the western theater. Having made that choice, they were sent directly to the Khanate of the Clouds to train, since there was no terrain quite like theirs in the north. They boarded the Koryo ships and stopped only at the island of Xaymaca on their way. He thought it was the most beautiful place he had ever seen and only left with difficulty. They were finally put ashore at one of the Putun Maya settlements on the north shore of the Khanate. They were marched inland to Tamalameque where Theodore himself welcomed them and thanked them for helping in his Khanate. They were then assigned to a training Ordu not far from the capital. It was situated right at the foot of a very high, mostly green but snowcapped mountain. It was on it and the surrounding jungle that they were trained for most of a year.

To put things in context, when Theodore was made Khan, his Khanate was little more than a thin strip of land about 750 li along the coast south of the isthmus with a thicker band along the coast north of the isthmus. When the Zhen plague broke out, the Khanate grew quickly, not by conquest but by offering to help. This was in startling contrast with the eastern Khanate. The troops were instructed in treating those afflicted with the plague and were sent out to help all that would accept their aid. Only the Muisca refused; all others they encountered gladly accepted their help and then gratefully joined the Khanate. By the time Necowee joined the forward elements (about the year I was born), the plague had long subsided, but the effects were still visible. They would come upon many deserted towns and villages, and those still inhabited would have as many as half of their houses empty and in disrepair. They would enter such a town in a modest force and seek out the leader to whom they would pitch the Khanate. If they joined, they were immediately helped in any way possible and were plugged into the courier system so they could receive swift help should it be needed.

As it happened, most joined readily, and a few joined only after making sure the system worked. This was not really surprising, though, when you consider these people had lost at least half of their population to a strange disease. They were probably still so devastated that any oblique reference to aid when in need sounded good to them. In any case, there were a total of four tumen on the campaign. Two, under the command of Theodore’s younger son, George, moved along the coast west of the high mountains; the other two under Ignace moved through the mountains and the foothills east of the mountains. Beyond the foothills there was dense jungle and another campaign would deal with that.

Since Necowee was with Ignace’s Ordu, he had the harder terrain to cover. Ignace had organized his march so that no one would spend all his time scrambling through the mountains. One tumen (Necowee’s) advanced along the intermittent valleys between the two mountain ranges and covered the western range. The other moved along the eastern foothills and covered the eastern range. There were occasional overlaps and a few towns were visited twice. In general, the Ordu was splintered into jaguns (one hundred men), which fanned out to visit all the towns and villages along the area. Actually, while they did have to cross some high mountain passes, they did not have to climb mountains, and at any rate, there were well-worn paths everywhere. Ignace would move between the two tumen of his Ordu, to see that all was going well.

All went well for the eastern tumen until the end, but for Necowee and his comrades it was different. At first things went smoothly, they left the frontier near a village called Tanguwa and proceeded south. They encountered some ruined and deserted villages and towns, but the inhabited towns were showing signs of rebounding. The people were glad to see the Mongols, and they were feasted and fussed over, and the towns joined the Khanate with puzzling relief that only grew as they moved south. Eventually they came across a large valley whose river flowed northwest through the mountains. Here they were greeted as saviors and urged south at all speed. Ignace was still with the eastern tumen, but the commander of the western tumen, a Mexica named Coatleztli, was no fool. He demanded an explanation from the locals, and they told him that a great chief from the south was conquering all in his path and had just begun approaching their outlying villages in force.

It seemed that the upper end of the valley had formed something of an alliance to fight the incursion, but they did not think they would prevail and would grasp at aid from any direction. Coatleztli explained that if they joined the Khanate, he would be obliged to protect them; otherwise, they were on their own. They fell over themselves joining. He then sent a minghan (one thousand men) to confront the invaders and advise them of the folly of continuing their advance. Meanwhile, he sent scouts to spy out the size of the invading force and organized the local levies into something that might be useful in battle, at least as auxiliaries. He detached one minghan to visit the towns and villages in the lower part of the valley and concentrated the rest of the troops in the path of the invaders. He also sent word to Ignace of the situation.

The scouts reported back that the invaders numbered no more than perhaps fifteen thousand. Necowee was in the minghan sent to confront the invaders. The latter halted in confusion at the sight of a mounted minghan with arrows at the ready, and their leader came forward to confer with the commander, a Tairona named Marcobare. With some difficulty, an interpreter chain was set up and Marcobare delivered the news to the invader. The latter looked over the minghan, spat in contempt, and returned to his forces. Marcobare graciously waited until the man got back to his lines, then ordered a volley right into the man’s wake. The enemy began to throw their spears using atlatl, but the minghan had already moved out of range and was sending more volleys of arrows into them. They continued to retreat deliberately back to the rest of the Ordu frequently stopping and firing volleys of arrows into the pursuing enemy.

When they reached the rest of the tumen, the invaders halted at the sight and began milling around waiting for orders. Coatleztli was not inclined to wait and immediately launched his attack. He massed his artillery in the center and sent three minghans around each side of the milling mass to fire into their flanks and rear. He reserved three minghans and the auxiliaries behind the cannon. The enemy continued to mill until one of their leaders finally fell into the trap and ordered an advance on the center. They were allowed to get into range of the cannon, then hit with a full salvo of grapeshot. They turned and fled and the pursuit was on. None of them escaped. Those who attempted to surrender were cut down.

The auxiliaries got into the pursuit once they got over their shock at the cannon. They captured a few and brought them back. Noticing this, Coatleztli asked them what they had in mind to do with their prisoners. They replied that they planned to sacrifice them to their god. Coatleztli then informed them that as members of the Khanate they can no longer sacrifice men to gods. Puzzled, they turned them over to the Ordu and returned to their towns. There were only about a dozen of the prisoners, and they made a pathetic spectacle, stripped of their clothes, kneeling down with their hands bound, and their heads bowed. Coatleztli contemplated them for a moment, and then was about to order them executed when Marcobare spoke to him for a moment. He scowled, then shrugged and ordered them released and sent back to warn their leader what would happen if he tried any more attacks and to suggest that he not try any resistance when he in turn was invaded by the Mongols. Once they were made to understand, they took off, furtively looking over their shoulders to see if they would be attacked as they fled.

Ignace soon arrived and was briefed. He approved of Coatleztli’s actions and sent a dispatch to Theodore. He then returned to the east to underscore his approval of Coatleztli’s actions. It was easy to see why Ignace was so popular with the army. Meanwhile, the tumen returned to its mission, but scouts were dispatched to the south to check up on the enemy. Every town in the valley joined without a murmur. A modest number of auxiliaries were pressed into service and marched directly south a little behind the main force. As they moved south from the valley, they encountered no resistance or people at all until they neared the central town of the enemy, Cayambe. There was no wall, and the houses were dried-mud walls with thatch roofs. The scouts had warned that the town was full of warriors and they were likely planning to fight house to house. They estimated the warriors at perhaps twelve thousand.

I learned later that the merchants from the Khanate had already advised Theodore what to expect on this campaign. The leaders knew the size of the armies of each state, how they were armed, what their defenses were, how soon they could mobilize, and what sort of leaders they had. In short, all of this was no surprise except to the average soldier, like Necowee. It gave him the idea that his army was invincible, and for all intents and purposes, it was.

The battle developed when the town was surrounded with the men staying out of spear shot. The cannon were massed at the north end of the town and loaded with shell. The auxiliaries were brought up and interspersed among the Ordu to make sure no one escaped. The cannon began firing and the houses began disintegrating in a shower of dirt. Screams were heard and warriors began fleeing the town to the south only to be cut down by the surrounding forces. As the bombardment continued, more men were shifted to the southern end of the town, and soon the trickle of fleeing men became a torrent as thousands rushed headlong to the south. Firing and retreating, our men led them along, pouring arrows into their flanks and front until the enemy dropped to the ground to find shelter. Instead, they found more arrows falling on them from the sky. Those who tried to surrender were cut down mercilessly. When it was over, the town was completely destroyed and no one was left alive.

South of Cayambe, there were only deserted towns and villages for some distance, then some obviously overcrowded towns with too many women and children in them, which obsequiously joined after assuring that they were in no way connected with the tyrant of Cayambe. They were allowed their fiction, but some were pressed into service as auxiliaries and guides. About this time, Ignace rejoined them and word spread that the eastern tumen was having an easy time of it. The progress of Necowee’s group was unimpeded for some distance until they made contact with the Puruha.

The tumen came upon a basin surrounded by high mountains, many of which were snowcapped. The basin was largely grassland with cultivated fields drained by tributaries of a large river that flowed eastward from the center of the basin. Around the river was dense forest. Also near the center were two very tall snowcapped mountains on either side of the basin. The western one was called Chimborazo and the eastern one Tungurahua. The western was taller and was considered male, while the eastern one was held to be female (an interesting concept). They were held to be the generator deities for the people of the basin. Necowee thought that peculiar enough to remember. I didn’t tell him about the Mongol origin myth my grandfather recorded, and was too polite to remind him of the Ani’ Yun’-wiya Star Woman myth. The people of the basin were the Latacunga in the north and the Puruha in the south. Each people were divided into tribes with their own chieftains who in turn were subordinate to a sort of king.

As the tumen entered the northern end of the basin, they were met by a delegation from the Latacunga. They had heard of the fate of the inhabitants of Cayambe and felt that it would be most prudent to establish dialog. They were given the usual recruitment pitch and requested time to think it over. It was granted, but Ignace insisted that he be allowed to continue on his way south while they were thinking. They agreed and when he warned them of the dire consequences of any treachery, they sent along a group of their higher-ranking officials as a pledge of good faith. True to their word, they did not break that pledge.

As the tumen reached the southern limits of the Latacunga lands, they heard the unmistakable sounds of battle. The scouts reported that it was a Puruha force attacking a border village of the Latacunga. Ignace took a small group including Necowee to watch the action. There was little difference between the forces; both looked the same, fought with the same weapons and tactics. They used wooden swords, lances, and slings that hurled hard wood pellets (rather than stones) with remarkable effect. Both sides fought bravely and although the Puruha finally withdrew, one would be hard-pressed to say which side had gotten the worst of it. Indeed the Puruha withdrew in good order and the Latacunga did not pursue them. The tumen moved on into the Puruha lands and set up camp for the night.

In the middle of the night, the men were roused, mounted, and silently moved first north, then east or west to envelop an unseen enemy force which the scouts had detected moving to surround the camp. By first light Necowee found himself behind a low hill. The order was given to move up the hill, and at the top he could see the enemy force, about twelve thousand men surrounding the camp and then with a shout attacking it. As they milled around in confusion in the empty camp, some of them noticed the encircling tumen bearing down on them. As usual, the tumen halted when they were in bowshot and the salvos of arrows began to fall on the enemy. After some confusion, their leaders organized an attack on the southern end of our lines. Again, as usual, the encircling bowmen moved with them continuously pouring arrows into their ranks. Seeing that their situation was desperate, the enemy turned to the east toward the distant forest. Just then, the scouts reported that a relief column was approaching from the south.

Ignace ordered the auxiliaries to dispatch the wounded enemy and to follow the fleeing enemy east. He withdrew the bulk of the tumen (all but two minghans) from the chase and prepared the classic surprise for the approaching relief column. The artillery was massed on a low hill, behind which were the men. A small troop was sent forward to bait the trap. They, of course, ran into the enemy and turned tail in seeming confusion and rushed toward the trap with the enemy in hot pursuit. At the last possible moment, the onrushing enemy were hit with a crushing salvo of grapeshot. Their charge stopped in confusion long enough to receive another salvo, which ended the confusion as they fled madly toward the south from whence they had come. Meanwhile the tumen moved along their flanks pouring arrows into their ranks. The fleeing Puruha reached one of their towns before they were wiped out and the tumen fanned around it to await the cannon.

Meanwhile, the first enemy force had been greatly reduced and before it could reach the cover of the forest, the pursuing force cut off their retreat and closed with them finishing the enemy force off with hand-to-hand combat. Our losses were minimal due to our superior weapons and the exhaustion of the enemy. Back at the besieged town, the cannon were brought up and, using solid shot, the tumen began to destroy the town from the north. The houses were made of stone and mud, which took longer to destroy than mere mud, but was harder on the inhabitants, many of whom were felled by flying stone or crushed under the falling walls of their houses. As usual, a sortie was made from the south of the town and it met the usual murderous escort into oblivion. The town was leveled and all those in it were killed. Ignace rested the tumen for a day after the battle and sent the scouts out to see what the Puruha would do next.

The scouts reported back that settlements were being deserted and the inhabitants were scurrying southeast into wooded hills. The men rested another day, then split up into jaguns and fanned out to see if anyone remained behind. Necowee’s jagun was the westernmost and they found all the settlements deserted. He found it rather eerie. The tumen eventually reformed at the edge of the forested area into which the enemy had withdrawn. Some of the men had found a few ancients left behind, but no one else. These were not disturbed except for one old warrior who stumbled toward one of the men brandishing his old wooden sword. He was granted his wish to die in battle.

The forested area was not as dense as that around the river, but it was not our preferred battle site. About this time, the “king” of the Latacunga came to our camp and expressed his desire to join the Khanate. He was immediately accepted and urged to send his warriors to assist in the coming campaign. He readily agreed and asked if we had any plans for the suddenly abandoned lands of the Puruha. He was assured that since he was joining us they were his to exploit. He rubbed his hands together with unseemly glee and ordered his subordinate chiefs to send their warriors immediately. Ignace was pleased with this development and decided to return to the eastern tumen since the situation was well in hand. It proved to be a fatal mistake for him.

Coatleztli moved the tumen to the southern edge of the forest area and sent the Latacunga armies into the northern edge to flush out the Puruha. The latter did not retreat but fought to the death in place. The Latacunga losses began to rise and they asked for help. Seeing no alternative, Coatleztli moved the Ordu into the woods on foot in infiltrative formation. Since the wood was not dense, it was not too difficult to use the bow, and soon the Puruha were pushed into what proved to be the private resort of their “king.” The buildings were on the hills above an area of small lakes connected by canals. Their last stand was in the buildings. The cannon were brought up and made short work of the buildings. Necowee was sure some of the Puruha escaped over the mountains to the east, but none were left in the basin except for the abandoned ancients. Necowee was puzzled that they preferred extinction to parley, but at no time did they request quarter or send a delegation to us. He was impressed with their bravery, but I thought them insane.

Not long after this, the tumen resumed the march south. Coatleztli dismissed the northern auxiliaries and took along a contingent from the Latacunga. Before they had reached the southern terminus of the basin, a courier arrived with orders to halt since a relief Ordu was in route to take over the campaign. Necowee’s tumen was ordered to go into camp in the basin and act as a reserve if needed. The camp was pitched at the southern end of the basin and they stayed there for the next year doing little more than patrolling and hunting down bandits. It was soon after pitching camp that they heard about the fate of Ignace. On his way to rejoin the eastern tumen, a jungle tribe attacked his escort. He was hit with a small dart on his neck. He removed it, dressed the wound, and thought no more of it. Soon he found he couldn’t move and finally he stopped breathing. One of the local guides explained that he had been hit with arrow poison or woorari as it was called locally. Oddly, many of the men had seen the pots of the black paste for sale in the markets of Tamalameque, but had never thought to use it for hunting (the suggested use) since they thought it cowardly. Enraged by the death of their beloved leader, the eastern tumen identified and relentlessly hounded the offending tribe, killing all they found and chasing the rest deep into the jungle where they likely ran afoul of other tribes. It was only with difficulty that the tumen commander got them to return to their camp. They also had been ordered into camp while their relief Ordu continued the march south.

After the year of camp, another Ordu was sent to replace Necowee’s Ordu. They had suffered some casualties on the march and their commander, a Nicarao named Tlancho, asked for volunteers to join them. Necowee rashly volunteered. They remained at the camp while his old Ordu returned to the Khanate. After a short time, they were ordered to the front to relieve the forward Ordu. The latter had been bloodied in a long, hard fight with a people called the Canari who lived in a series of basins beginning about 120 li to the south of Necowee’s camp and extending roughly south for about 150 li. They were not a very united people and some had joined, others had refused to join, and some had attacked without provocation. The confusion had caused a lot of problems.

When the lead Ordu first entered the basin, it was received coldly but correctly by the northernmost chieftain. It was impossible to tell where one chieftaincy ended and another began, and during a routine visit, most of a jagun had been wiped out in an ambush in one town. The town was annihilated as usual, but the commander then mistakenly attacked a neighboring town which belonged to a different chieftain, which resulted in a prolonged war with two of the chieftains while the first encountered chieftain wavered, making it impossible to leave him unguarded. While much of the land was the open grassland, there was also quite a bit of dense forest and the enemy made excellent use of it. While the two chieftaincies were being reduced, the others began to take sides, even without invitation, and soon there was a general war in the basins in which participants changed sides or reverted to neutrality with remarkable ease and frequency. It seemed that much depended on which chieftain had taken which side at a particular time and which other chieftains liked or hated him.

By the time Necowee’s Ordu arrived, the fighting had degenerated into rounding up bandits (enemies who hadn’t surrendered) in the forested areas. The arrival of the eastern Ordu shortly after Necowee arrived had done much to convince the neutral chieftains that it would be better to join the Khanate. Necowee saw only a little action at this time, but was able to describe the people for me. They were quite a bit more affluent than their northern neighbors. There was a lot of gold and silver ornamentation worn by them along with colorful stone beads. They also used copper for tools, weapons, and ornaments. They used lances, wooden swords, and slings, but also favored a sort of club with a star-shaped head of stone or copper. They seemed to have a lot of rounded or cylindrical jars with faces near the rim. Otherwise, their pottery was decorated with red, black, and buff, had thin walls, and was polished.

Again, he noticed that they worshipped mountains as well as other natural objects (the sky, volcanoes, trees, rocks, lakes, and even river confluences). In the southernmost basin there was a mountain called Curitaqui, which had a cave near its summit. Here they would sacrifice about one hundred children each year to ensure a good harvest. Needless to say, this practice was ended when they joined the Khanate. He also mentioned that they seemed to do a lot of trading to the west and south.

Once the area was pacified, Necowee got permission to visit the western Ordu. From one grizzled old veteran who had been along for the whole campaign, Necowee was able to learn how it had gone. Cousin George had also split the Ordu, sending one tumen along the coast and the other inland along the western end of the mountains. The latter tumen met no resistance most of the way and only pleasant, friendly people who either happily joined or pleasantly demurred, but cooperated fully. Because of the dense forests, progress was quite slow and it was likely they missed a few villages along the way.

Along the coast, the former tumen (with whom George remained) soon encountered elements of a oncepopulous people rebounding from the plague. They cultivated food crops, fished, and hunted and had some crude gold ornaments. They had several towns and a few cities with many houses, but still some of the towns and many of the houses were abandoned. Their principle city, Atacames, was particularly large with a few thousand houses. They received George with cordiality and were reluctantly willing to join the Khanate in order to get the proffered aid should the plague recur. It took quite some time to pass through their lands.

South of them were another people who were more sophisticated. Their northernmost settlement received George with some indifference while messengers were dispatched to their leaders in a city called Manta. George waited for the reply, setting up a fortified camp near the first town. Eventually, the messenger returned with orders from the ruler that they must withdraw at once or suffer dire consequences. George was incensed, and with his usual insensitivity, ordered the messenger seized and the town wiped out. Once there was nothing left of the town, he sent the messenger back to his ruler with the head of the town chieftain. The inevitable result was a long, harsh, cruel campaign of conquest necessitating the request for another tumen for help. At first the campaign was easy, since much of the terrain along that part of the coast was open and arid except for the river valleys, but soon the enemy withdrew into the forest and the losses mounted steadily. The arrival of the second tumen caused the enemy to lose hope and a delegation came to discuss surrender. George would likely have had them all executed and continued with the war had not two messages arrived just before the delegation. The first was from Theodore advising him of his brother’s death. The second was from his eastern tumen requesting help. The former piece of information gave him unseemly good cheer and the second gave him much-needed pause.

He accepted the surrender of the delegation and demanded that their army (what was left of it) immediately join in the subjugation of their eastern neighbors. Necowee added that the Manta, whose lands he later traversed, were impressive sailors using great rafts propelled with large cotton sails. They also had built terraces to cultivate up the side of hills. He also mentioned that both sexes had the peculiar habit of going about wearing ornamentation about the neck and over the chest and nothing at all below the waist. He thought that rather bizarre.

The difficulty in the east came from the Huancavilca people (who at least did cover their privates with loincloths and skirts). They were primarily an agricultural people exploiting their well-watered lands. They had treacherously feigned friendship, drawing the tumen deep into their northern forested area, and then falling on them in ambush. The tumen was able to fight its way out of the trap, but was forced into retreat from enemy territory. Once out, they began to fight their way back into the area, but the going was slow, and the losses were heavy. George determined that the Huancavilca lands extended to the sea where the terrain was more open. He immediately launched an invasion by his two tumen along the coast and up the river valleys, wreaking havoc and destroying all the cities and towns along his path. Meanwhile the Manta and Atacames auxiliaries were sent in from the west. Faced with this three-pronged assault, the Huancavilca withdrew across their great river only to watch helplessly as George built a pontoon bridge and crossed after them. They fled into the forests to the east but found themselves pressed against the advancing Ordu from the basins of the Canari and soon all of them surrendered.

It was clear that George wanted to kill each and every one of the Huancavilca, but fortunately for them, Theodore picked just this moment to visit the front. He received their surrender delegations and generously accepted them into the Khanate. George was livid, but dared not say anything lest he undermine his own ambitious plans to succeed his father. Instead, he praised his father’s kindness and thanked him profusely for arriving in time to save him from making a grievous mistake. Unfortunately, Theodore, a profoundly honest man, accepted George’s word at face value and named him as his successor.

Two Ordu were left in the area to maintain order, one near the coast and the other among the Canari. The rest of the tumen were withdrawn to the north. Necowee went north with Theodore and George, and, after a short stay in Tamalameque, returned home. He spent a few glorious months in Xaymaca, and winking, assured me he left some descendants there. He then returned home following a very circuitous route. He added that he learned later on that there was a big island in the bay between the lands of the Manta and the Huancavilca that was called Puna. The people of the island were somehow related to but independent of the Manta and began raiding the coast. Aided by the Manta rafts, an invasion was launched and the raiders were subdued. There was no more activity on that front for four years.

4
Itsati, Panther Ordu, Itsati, 88–9 K
(E TN, Portland, ME, E TN, 1456–7)

There were quite a few other Ani’ Yun’-wiya veterans in Itsati besides Oganaya and Necowee, but none of them would talk to me about the campaign. A few would mention particular incidents in the middle of a battle or siege or march, but none would help me flesh out the big picture. Necowee suggested that perhaps they were not interested in the “big picture” but only in their own particular part of it. After all, he told me, staying alive is a very important part of any campaign and will often dominate all your attention. I would understand, he assured me, when I went on campaign. Fool that I was, I looked forward to the day.

During the fourth year of my stay with the Ani’ Yun’-wiya, I received a letter from my father. He rather tersely informed me that my mother had died and urged me to take the news to my sister Mathilde in person and comfort her over the loss. I was surprised that he realized what a blow it would be to her and secretly pleased that he put such a mission in my hands. I made immediate arrangements to accompany a group of young men to the Snake Ordu where they would train and I could make arrangements to get to the Panther Ordu to deliver my sad message to Mathilde.

I was rather excited about my coming adventure and Cimnashote was upset at not being allowed to accompany me. Ghigooie felt that I would have enough trouble as it was remembering the reason I was going to visit my sister without the added distraction of a playmate. She was right, of course, but I sincerely wished he could have come with me.

It was early spring when we left Itsati. We traveled northeast through many Ani’ Yun’-wiya towns and settlements scattered among the mountain valleys. We finally left the mountains and began encountering the towns of the Cheroenhaka along the upper reaches of Hokomawanank River that we would follow to the Snake Ordu. The Cheroenhaka were enough like the Ani’ Yun’-wiya that we felt right at home with them and they made us quite welcome. The language was similar, but there were a lot of different words and sometimes a similar word had a very different meaning.
The Snake Ordu was a bevy of activity since a large group was getting ready to depart on campaign in the south and there was much excitement. The recruits who accompanied me were immediately put to work while I was ignored. With difficulty, I got a member of the Ordu commander’s staff to notice me and listen to my request to go to the Panther Ordu. He looked me over for a moment and sent me to tag along with a northern-bound merchant train.

I presented myself to the merchant, an old Mexica named Cocatli. He asked if I was related to the great physician John, and when I told him John was my father, Cocatli welcomed me as an honored guest. It seems my father had saved Cocatli’s life some years before, and Cocatli was delighted to offer some small service in return. He promised to take me all the way to the Panthers, even if it was out of his way. On this leg of his trip he was visiting the coastal Ordu and towns, but that would take him fairly close to my destination.

This was a very strange trip. We did not move very quickly, since we had to stop at every town of decent size. We also did not go very directly since that would have caused us to miss some of the worthwhile towns. He carried feathers, gold, silver and copper ornaments, furs, dried ox meat, and some knives. He traded for copper sheets, dried fish, shells, and beads made from shells and furs. When he finished going along the coast, he would turn inland and work his way back to the south trading the coastal goods far from the coast. He would eventually return to Anahuac.

I asked about his encounter with my father. It had been some time ago in what became the Khanate of the Clouds. Cocatli had just returned to Tamalameque from a trading expedition to the Muisca and had fallen gravely ill with some sort of strange fever. My father had been treating the locals for the Zhen plague for a few years and was just getting ready to leave for home when Cocatli was brought to him. He immediately abandoned his plans and devoted all his attention to his patient. He pulled Cocatli through and the grateful Cocatli tried to pay him with one of the Quetzalitzli stones. My father had refused, thinking it extravagant pay, but finally accepted a small one to give his then wife, Metztlaconac. He must have buried it with her, for I never saw it.

I asked Cocatli about the Muisca. He told me that they lived in a beautiful high plateau where the weather is always mild, except for an occasional hailstorm. They lived in circular houses with conical roofs made of plaited grass. The communal houses were rectangular with gabled roofs. Their chiefs lived in very large houses with massive beaten gold sheets hanging from the roof at the entrance and were carried around in gold-covered litters. They had large temples to their sun god and also considered many lakes, caves, and hilltops to be sacred and placed idols of wood, stone, cotton, or gold at these sites and left valuable offerings to them. They also made human sacrifices to their sun god. The victims were usually prisoners of the Pache tribe along the upper reaches of the Yuma River. He had heard that the Pache had finally joined the Khanate and suspected that George would use that as an excuse to conquer the Muisca.

The Muisca were short, broad, barrel-chested, with round faces, black eyes, and thick black hair. The men had short-cropped hair and most wore thick caps woven from fibers of a plant called cabuya, but the wealthier wore feather or gold caps. They also wore a skirt that hung below their knees and a manta tied over one shoulder, both made of died cotton. The women kept their hair long and braided and went bare headed. They also wore skirt and manta, but the latter was draped over both shoulders and held with a pin. They cultivated various tubers and grains not found in the north. All they seemed to want in trade was gold (which they made into rather uninteresting flat ornaments, or used to adorn their leaders’ houses), raw cotton (died red or black), smoked fish, arrow poison, or the leaves of a bush called coca, that was a kind of stimulant. All they had to trade was a huge supply of salt, copper, and a secret nearby source of the fabled green quetzalitzli stones. The latter was the only reason Cocatli he ever climbed up to their high valley. He didn’t seem to care for them much.

I asked him about his travels, and he regaled me at length about many of the innumerable tribes he had encountered, although most of his information was about their tastes in trade goods. While I suppose I should have remembered all of this for this book, it really didn’t interest me, and I did not. I only remembered the Muisca because I heard about them many times before and was curious about them. Needless to say, although the journey was a long one, Cocatli did not begin to exhaust his supply of information. I was most relieved when the Panther Ordu finally came into view.
I first tried to find Aspenquid, thinking he could help me break the news to Mathilde, but he was out on patrol, so I would have to handle this by myself. I got directions to their tent and slowly approached it. Just outside the tent, I could hear her singing a lullaby to her baby (she had sent word to me when he was born a few months before). I listened for a while recognizing the song as the one with which she had sung me to sleep when I was so upset about Grandfather’s death. It was a Salst song and was both haunting and comforting at the same time. When she had finished the song, I called out in greeting. She rushed out and embraced me almost lifting me off my feet.

“You didn’t tell me you were coming, what a wonderful surprise! Oh, you’ve grown so tall and handsome! But you’ve missed Aspenquid, he left yesterday. Come in, you must see the baby, your new nephew,” she prattled on bravely while leading me into the tent. But she finally dissolved into tears and clinging to me desperately, wept softly.

She knew why I was there, and I didn’t have to say a word. I felt so badly for her that I was soon weeping with her. This was a help since she was presently trying to comfort me, and it drew her out of her loss, but for the next several days, I would often find her sobbing alone and would try to comfort her or help with the baby and let her cry out the grief. It was not a happy visit. Aspenquid returned a few days later and greeted me warmly before grimly receiving the news. He was most attentive to Mathilde and she finally drew out of her grief. She told me that she had felt a stab in her heart some months before and was sure there had been a loss in the family. When no word came, she had begun to hope that she was wrong. When she saw me, however, she knew it had to be our mother. It was rather disconcerting the way she picked that up.

Since it was midsummer when I arrived at the Panther Ordu, I stayed for the rest of the summer. My new nephew was named Aju (the name of a Mongol commander who had been like a father to Aspenquid). He was a little too young for me to enjoy his company, but Aspenquid took me hunting and fishing and checked up on my martial skills, and Mathilde made sure I hadn’t forgotten all the languages we had learned together and brought me up to date on her life in the Ordu. When I was on my own, I looked around for older, retired warriors and after helping them out with a few chores asked them about their campaigns. As usual, I found only a few willing to talk and all but one of them seemed to only notice what was directly in front of them. The one exception was Tegulun.

Tegulun was a Mongol name, but only his grandfather had been a Mongol. Like so many of the people of the north who spent their whole life in an Ordu, he was of mixed tribal roots, Mongol, Siksika, Ocheti shakowin, and Leni lenape. He had recently returned from the latest campaign in the Khanate of the Green Mist. He had known Oganaya; in fact he had been trained by him before his first campaign. By the time he had entered the fray, the devastation from the Zhen plague had abated and the locals had begun to resist more effectively.

The people along the coast from the mouth of the Juchi River on south spoke a similar language and had come to be called the Tupinamba collectively, although each band often had its own name. They were very warlike and often fought among themselves in order to secure captives for human sacrifice and cannibalism. They had huge houses, five-hundred-feet long and a hundred-feet wide in which lived as many as thirty related families. Each town could have any number of such houses. They rightly blamed the Mongols for the Zhen plague and were able to unite with varying degrees of success to fight the common enemy. Unfortunately for them, there were always a few among them who held a grudge against their neighbors that was even stronger than their fear of the Mongols and they were easily and often betrayed. Even so, they fought bravely and fiercely and depending on the terrain with some slight success. By the time he had left the campaign, the coast had been cleared of hostile bands, and the attention had turned inland where the forest soon gave way to jungle and progress slowed significantly.

It seemed that the Tupinamba were themselves invaders. They had moved to the coast from the interior and had been displacing first the original inhabitants and then each other. The Zhen plague had interrupted this activity for a generation, but it was renewed even while the Mongols were moving along the coast from the northwest. After fighting them for three years, Tegulun felt he knew his enemy well. He described them as attractive people although they did tattoo and paint themselves too much for his taste. (Again, as Grandfather had predicted, tattooing and body paint had gone out of style in the Khanate.) They wore no clothes at all, but were ornamented heavily. Both sexes removed all body hair and the men also shaved the front of their heads. The men wore bone, wood, shell, or stone labrets, and some even had cheek, ear, and nose plugs of stone, bone, or wood. The women wore their hair long and braided and wore shell ear spools. Both sexes wore elaborate feather headdresses, beads, shells, teeth, and anything else they thought attractive as ornaments. They often glued the ornaments to their hair and bodies with wax. Their body paint was usually red or black, although on occasion one would find yellow and blue.

Their cannibalism had certain bizarre elements. They would capture a future meal in battle by disarming him and touching him on the shoulder announce, “You are my prisoner.” Thereafter, the prisoner would do as he was told. He would then be alternately harassed and treated like a guest until the fateful day. Even then, he was allowed to harass back and even throw harmless missiles at his tormentors. In the end, he would be gaily decorated and bashed in the head with an equally decorated club. The victims were quite pleased with their fate being convinced that they would be going directly to a sort of paradise. The whole business sounded much like the similar nonsense practiced in Anahuac before the Mongol conquest. I had to wonder where such ideas came from.

The Tupinamba were quite nonplused the first time they tried to capture a disarmed Mongol only to have him produce a knife and continue the fight. They soon discovered the only way they could eat a Mongol was to find him alone and kill him in ambush. This was nearly impossible since they always went about in force. In any case, the conquered Tupinamba had to give up all that and wean themselves from human flesh. Any backsliding was severely punished.

The club and the bow were their main weapons in battle and their tactics were primitive. Their battle plan consisted of trying to surprise a sleeping foe at dawn or dusk and, after firing off arrows, closing with their clubs while dancing about to avoid presenting an easy target. There were no further orders during battle. The first time they tried that with a small Mongol encampment, they learned the futility of their tactics. Even so, it took them a while to turn to jungle ambush as the tactic of choice. But these ambushes were usually betrayed by supposed allies who harbored some long-standing grudge, and resulted in disaster for them. Tegulun was glad to be done with them and did not even briefly entertain the idea of reenlisting for another three years.

Another veteran who arrived in the Ordu shortly before I left would only tell me that they were still fighting the Tupinamba in the jungle inland, but had also started back down the coast and had run into a rather primitive people called the Tremembe who hated the Tupinamba and had joined the Khanate to help fight them. The only thing he could tell me about them was that they used a crescent-shaped stone axe that they would leave with the body whenever they killed anyone with it. Whenever a crescent moon appeared in the sky, the men would make the axes while the women sang songs all night long. They believed that they could not be defeated with such a weapon. Since they joined the Khanate, the belief was never really tested.

Aspenquid was annoyed that I had not been able to come directly to the Panther Ordu with a dispatch rider instead of taking the rather circuitous trade route. He insisted I stay until a dispatch rider was scheduled to go right through Ani’ Yun’-wiya lands. Early in the fall, one such was finally scheduled and Aspenquid prevailed on him to deliver me home. Since the dispatches were not urgent, he was quite willing to oblige. The night before departure, Mathilde gave me dried meat and grain cakes for the trip and presented me with a new outfit made of deerskin. We made our farewells and Aspenquid took me to meet the dispatch rider.

His name was Lapahnihe, a Leni lenape, not too many years older than me. As his name suggested, he was a big bear of a man, quite a load for the horses. I asked him how such a large man had come to be a dispatch rider. He laughed a rumbling chortle and explained that everyone in the Ordu had to run an occasional dispatch, although his were never urgent and he could always set a nice easy pace. He was quite happy for the company and delighted to visit the Ani’ Yun’-wiya, since so many comely women could be found among them.

I spent the night with Lapahnihe since we would leave at first light. And so it was, he woke me while it was still dark, we quickly ate breakfast, mounted our horses and, as the first light began to soften the eastern sky, we rode south. As we went along the trail, the vibrant early fall colors took form out of the shadows and the cool morning warmed into a beautiful warm day. I was caught up in the natural splendor when, about midmorning, we came upon a small train of wagons. We absently waved greeting to the drivers as we past, but then for some reason I turned to look after we had passed them and saw a young girl looking dreamily out from the rear of the last wagon. I was startled by her appearance, for she was as fair skinned as I and seemed to have light brown hair. I was rooted in the spot staring after her until her wagon turned out of view. When I caught up to Lapahnihe and told him about the girl, he pointed out that the sun would have been shinning directly on her and it would have made her appear fairer than she was. He had never seen anyone as fair as me, although he had heard that there were white-skinned fishermen that plied the waters off the northeast coast.

I asked him why the Koryo ships had not intercepted them. He didn’t know, although he suspected it was because they generally plied the southern coasts where their settlements were. He asked me if I had ever been on one of their ships. I admitted I hadn’t, although I had seen them while we were traversing the lands of the Huaxteca on my trip from home. He gave me a better idea how large they were and asked me if I had noticed that they all had sheets of copper covering their bottoms. I had not and asked him about it. It seemed that when the Koryo first launched their ships in the southern sea, they soon discovered that a type of sea creature was relentlessly eating the wooden hulls. They tried several kinds of pitch and tar and different types of wood, but nothing worked, until one day when one of them happened to see a trade caravan carrying the copper sheets and decided to try it. It completely prevented the creatures from attacking the wood. Because of the military use of the ships, the Khakhan supplies the copper to them. It does have to be replaced occasionally but they never have to pay for it.

He told me about his travels and described many of the things Grandfather had mentioned in his book. He had been to the Missi Sipi River a few times but no farther west. He had been far enough north to have met the Inuit and confirmed many of the things Grandfather had observed. He was certain that they had changed little since Grandfather had visited them. His people, on the other hand, had changed quite a bit since the visit of the legendary Juchi. I recalled that his visit precipitated the war with the Mingue. He nodded and observed that that war had had a profound effect on his people.

“The Mongols eliminated our greatest enemies,” he said, “and gave us their empty territory. We suddenly found ourselves awash in riches of fertile lands and endless hunting grounds. The young men would not bother going on campaign with the Ordu, but would sit about fussing over their appearance until it was time to go hunt. We were in danger of growing fat and lazy. Then in our time of need, a great leader emerged. His name was Choqweke, but he came to be called Gelelemend (Leader). As a young man, the general inertia of the people disgusted him and he left to join the Osprey Ordu, which was still stationed nearby in the lands of the defeated Mingue. He stayed with them many years and served in the conquest of the Anahuac lands. When he returned home, he was commander of the Ordu and when he retired he returned to his people. While being honored at a general tribal meeting, he shamed the young men of the tribe by challenging them to single combat with an “old” man. The challenge was reluctantly taken up by the strongest of the young men, but Gelelemend quickly defeated all who took him on. He was prevailed upon to train the young men, but he refused and instead said he could not be bothered by anyone not manly enough to join the Ordu. So it was that almost all the young men of the Leni lenape join an Ordu and go on campaign. Gelelemend soon became the high chief, and no man would dare approach him if he was not a veteran of a campaign.”

“Have you gone on campaign yet?” I asked.
“No,” he shook his head, “not yet, but I will next year.”
“Where will you go?”
“Wherever I’m sent.”
“Sometimes you get a choice, I’m told.”

“Well, if I get a choice, I would pick the Clouds over the Green Mist. I’ve been in the jungle of the Alligator Ordu, and I didn’t much like it. It is too damp and hot.”

 

“I understand that there is jungle in the Khanate of the Clouds also.”

 

“True, but at least there are the high, cool mountains, and the temperate foothills also. The Green Mist, on the other hand, is uniformly hot and usually damp.”

 

“I hope you get a choice.”

I asked him about the white fishermen, recalling that Grandfather had mentioned something about them. He said that they never touch the mainland since their long-ago near encounter with an Ordu patrol, but the ships are still seen on the horizon in the spring and summer and occasionally they will land on an offshore island. In the far north he had heard from the Inuit that once in a great while a long ship with shallow draft will put in to the shore and white men get off to chop and load wood, then return to the east. The Inuit say that the white men live on the southern tip of a large island in the east, but that they are dying off since they can’t take the severe weather. This made me wonder how they got there, but I never did find out. It seems they were already there when the Inuit reached the large island and there had been a few desultory clashes between them, but little more than skirmishes. Grandfather had mentioned these people in his book, but had little information about them.

Lapahnihe did add that the weather had changed over the years. The old people of his tribe insisted that the winters were shorter and milder when they were young. Now the snow covers the ground during all the winter and much of the fall. I was too young to know about winters long past, although the winters in Anahuac seemed to be always mild, and so everyone had said. Still, the winters among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya were far from mild and generally featured very heavy snowfall. When I got back to Itsati, I asked some of the oldest people about the winters and they confirmed that in their youth, the weather was milder, the snow was wetter and wouldn’t always last all winter long. Apparently, they would also get rain that would freeze overnight covering everything with ice. I decided, that perhaps it was better that it was colder. I have lived long enough to reject that conclusion.

Lapahnihe took me all the way to Itsati, even though it was out of his way and Iskagua and Ghigooie prevailed on him to spend the night and enjoy a feast. He loved to eat and needed very little persuasion. Meanwhile, a letter from my father awaited me. He thanked me for helping my sister and told me to stay where I was a few more years. It seemed that the weather had deteriorated in Anahuac. It all began the year after I left. Heavy rains caused Lake Texcoco to flood Tlatelolco, Tenochtitlan, and the other cities on the lakeshore. The Tlatoani of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl, designed and began work on a dike to prevent future flooding. Then the next years featured heavy snowfall that collapsed many of the flat roofed houses in the valley, and then early frosts wiped out the centli crop. This last year saw a devastating drought shrivel the crops. Fortunately, the problems were confined to the high valleys and the crops were abundant near the coast and elsewhere in the Khanate, so no one was starving. Still, there had been some lawlessness since the Ordu are busy facilitating the flow of food, and he didn’t think it was safe for me to come back yet. He thoughtfully assured me that Cuauhtzin was in fine health and voice and Tetl was taking good care of him.

I was quite happy to stay where I was, for I really did like it. My Ani’ Yun’-wiya family was also happy to have me stay, so I plunged back into my routine. Still, I couldn’t get the image of the fair-skinned girl out of my head and finally sent Mathilde a note asking her if any such girl was seen at the Panther Ordu, since that’s where she seemed to be headed. Reading between the lines, Mathilde made a great effort to find out about the girl but to no avail. Mathilde could only tell me that a small wagon caravan had passed near the Panther Ordu about midday on the day I left. However, it had not stopped, and no one knew where it was going or whence it came. She promised me that Aspenquid would make discreet inquiries when he went on patrol toward the northeast, the direction in which the wagons were last seen moving. By the time I got her note, it was already winter and I doubted if anyone would remember the caravan. I tried to keep myself busy, but again and again the image of the girl would return to me.

Early in the spring, both my father and sister wrote to tell me that it was time for my vision quest. The practice had spread among some of the eastern tribes, but had not really caught on among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya. My father had picked up the practice from his brother Theodore, whose quest Grandfather mentioned. In any case, it was a family practice and Iskagua was fully prepared to instruct me. He took me aside and explained that I must go off by myself and fast, pray, and meditate until I was granted my vision. It would give my life direction, it might tell me to avoid certain foods or animals or even people. It might reveal to me which animal would be my protector, with whom I had a special bond. In short, it would guide me to the path that would be the best one for me to take.
Frankly, I had some misgivings. Cimnashote thought it was a rather strange practice and felt I shouldn’t bother with it. Ghigooie insisted that I should and assured me I wouldn’t regret it if I gave the quest the time and effort required. Iskagua admonished me to honor my father’s request. Gatagewi was intrigued with the concept and also wanted to make the quest. Iskagua agreed, and so on a beautiful spring day, we purified ourselves in the sweat bath, plunged into the river, and started off in different directions on our vision quest. Gatagewi went northeast and I went southwest.

Remembering Theodore’s quest, I decided to climb a mountain, but first I wanted to get far enough away that hunters wouldn’t distract me. I walked most of the day drinking only water and by nightfall, I was very hungry, but had arrived at the foot of a most likely looking mountain. I decided to go ahead and climb it in the twilight, but had to stop partway up because I kept tripping. I rested quietly for a while trying to blank out my mind by saying the appropriate prayers for guidance. Soon the moon rose above the trees and the silvery glow inspired me to climb the rest of the way up the mountain. I reached the top and found a sheltered spot among some rocks. I sat down and resumed my meditation. Not surprisingly, I fell asleep and awakened the next morning very stiff from the unnatural position in which I had spent the night.

I moved about to loosen up and decided to explore the mountain a bit to see if it was home to bears or panthers and find a good source of water. I found a stream about midway down the western side. It came directly out of the mountain and was quite cold. After a bracing bath, I determined that there were no large predators in residence on the mountain and I had best return to my meditation before I succumbed to starvation. I brought up a good supply of water and resumed my quest. The hunger was not too bad, for I had trained to endure hunger, but the sitting still was maddening. Endless thoughts flooded my mind, annoying itches distracted me, insects found and plagued me, and the sun first warmed me, then made me too hot, then abandoned me to chill in the shadows. Birds called out; small animals scurried and chattered; I heard the occasional rattle of the snake called tecuancoatl in Nahual and utso’nati’ in Ani’ Yun’-wiya and the distant howls of wolves. All these things conspired to make a mockery of my efforts.

Still, I refused to give up. I tried to allow the distractions to pass through my mind unremarked. Eventually, either this began to work or I was becoming delirious from hunger, because toward the end of the day I began to sense things. At first these were monstrous things: giants, fantastic beasts, bizarre colors and shapes, but I persevered and finally fell asleep.

Again I awoke very stiff and sore and repaired to the stream for another bath and supply of water. I returned to my spot and decided to try the nawak’osis Iskagua had given me. I was hungry enough to eat it, but instead filled a small pipe and used it properly. I knew to be careful with it since it tended to set me off into a fit of coughing, and indeed managed to work through the pipe with no ill effects. It had the added benefit of discouraging the flying insects. I returned to my reverie even though both my stomach and head were aching (my training enabled me to endure this). I tried another pipe at midafternoon and it helped disperse the persistent insects again. Finally I began to see real or at least realistic things and found a guide and received guidance. Of course, I can’t identify the guide or reveal the guidance.

5
Itsati and Journey Home, 89–90 K
(E. TN to SE OK, 1457–8)

When my vision ended, it was dark and although I was very weak from hunger, I swallowed a large draught of water and went to sleep. The next morning I rose early, and putting to use my survival skills, quickly found some young weed shoots I could eat. I walked back toward Itsati, stopping at the first fishable stream to get some real nourishment. I soon had a fair-sized fish (the one called agoli [perch] by the Ani’ Yun’-wiya) and prepared myself a meal. I walked on until dusk, then found a cozy spot to spend the night. I awoke suddenly from a dream in which my guide told me to get up immediately. I jumped up and heard the unmistakable snuffling of an approaching bear. The air was still, so I quietly moved off away from his path and, since dawn was not far off, walked through the rest of the night by the light of the moon. I reached home near midmorning. There was something to be said for this quest business.
Ghigooie welcomed me warmly, congratulated me, and handed me a just-prepared bowl of centli porridge. She had awakened that morning and knew I would be back by the time she fixed up the porridge. It was disconcerting the way she could do that. I asked after Gatagewi and she said he had arrived the night before and had also been successful in his quest. He was now with Iskagua making preparations of the feast called Sah Looh Stu-knee Keeh Steh Steeh. Cimnashote came up, greeted me, then stopped and peered at me curiously.

“You have changed Koga (Crow in Ani’ Yun’-wiya). You look older now,” he said. “Perhaps I should go on a quest also.”

 

“I would recommend it,” I told him.

Ghigooie laughed and asked him if he thought he could sit still long enough to get a vision. He had to admit it was unlikely, but thought he should try. He eventually did go (that following winter) and also came back a different person. I really didn’t feel different, but everyone said I was. What I did feel was a newfound confidence and a sort of independence. I found myself wandering off from time to time by myself to consult my guide and feeling quite at ease alone. I suppose I had matured a little.

The following summer Mathilde and Aspenquid came to visit during the feast called Tung Nah Kaw Hoon Ghni. They brought along Aju and their newest child, a daughter named Paula, after our mother. They both remarked how I had grown up since they last saw me. I asked if they had ever found out about my mystery girl, but they had not. No one else had seen such a girl. Even so, I was sure I had not seen an illusion and would find the girl one day.

I should write a little about the Ani’ Yun’-wiya feasts since some of my relatives have never lived among them. These were usually held only in the principle towns whose shaman was sufficiently esteemed. Itsati was one such town. The people of the smaller towns would go to the principal town to which they felt some allegiance at the proper time. The Ani’ Yun’-wiya year began with Nung Tah Tay-quah, on the first new moon of autumn. Hunters were sent out seven days before the feast, hunted for six days, and returned on the seventh depositing the game in the Town House storeroom. On the day of the moon, the tip of the tongue of the first buck deer killed was wrapped in old leaves and given to the Uku (Iskagua’s title). Seven specially appointed men prepared seats and tables and seven women oversaw the preparation of food. Each family contributed a sample of every crop they had raised to the Uku and also a larger amount for the feast. Only infants were allowed to sleep that night and the women performed a special dance all night long. Before dawn, the Uku marched everyone down the river where all immersed themselves seven times. Upon leaving the water, each would walk to a table where the special crystals were set up. These were long, clear rock crystal pieces thought to be able to foretell one’s fate. One would hold out his hands to the crystal and if he saw himself standing erect in the crystal, he would live at least until the first spring new moon; if he were prone, he would die before that moon. The doomed would go off to the side to pray alone, the rest would take up a piece of medicinal root and go change out of their wet clothes. That night the great feast was served for everyone except the Uku who had to first sacrifice the bit of tongue, the attendants who had to wait until everyone else was finished, and the doomed who were expected to fast and try to get the crystal to change its mind about their fate. I really don’t see how anyone could see himself other than erect in the crystal, but some did, every year, and would die if they couldn’t get their image to change. Again, only infants slept that night and the women danced again. In the morning it was over.

The next feast was called Ah Tawh Hung Nah. It was held about eight to ten days after the Great New Moon Feast. On the first night, pairs of young men would begin to silently exchange clothes until each was dressed in the other’s garments. This would symbolize that they were joined as one and would henceforth be devoted to each other. The men did this on their own and would indeed look out for each other, always hunting and going on campaign together. It was quite a commitment and was never lightly taken.

During this feast, the Uku would wear a conical hat and a crystal stone wrapped in leather around his neck. Seven men were called upon to “purify” the town house and to beat all the houses in the town with rods from the kotsune tree (white bark sycamore). Seven women were appointed to lead all the dances, seven more men were sent out to get certain necessary evergreen woods for the purification rites, seven more were assigned with the making of the sacred fire, and a special attendant was to sing the Yo Wah hymn. All these special people along with the Uku would only eat a little food once a day after dark for the next seven days. Meanwhile another seven-day hunt was undertaken and all was made ready for the feast. The wood was placed in a basket and, on the sixth day, placed in the storeroom of the town house along with game and other victuals. That night the women danced to singing and drumming, then most went to bed. During the night, the appointed seven cleaned out and whitewashed the interior of the town house, the fire makers started the new fire with seven kinds of wood, and the sacred cauldron was placed near the fire and filled with running water collected in the seven special dipping gourds. The Uku recovered the evergreens from the storehouse, prayed, entered the town house, prayed again, circled the altar, sprinkled nawak’osis on the fire, directed the steam from the cauldron in four directions with a heron wing fan, repeated the circling, sprinkling and fanning three times; then the evergreens were lowered into the cauldron, the fanning repeated, and all took their seats.

Elsewhere in the town, the women of each household rose early, put out all fires, and swept the house clean. Then, when they went to the town house, they got a coal from the sacred fire to light new fires in their homes. Everyone gathered at the town house, and then the purifiers came forth, received the rods, and filed outside. The chanter was called, and he came forward, was dressed in a white robe, and was given two rattling gourds. He began to chant, circled the altar, and went outside. At this point, the purifiers beat the eaves of first the storeroom, then all the other houses in the town, then the storeroom again chanting all the while, too. The chanter meanwhile climbed onto the roof of the town house while holding a note (“eeeeh”) until he reached the top. At this point, he sang the Yo Wah hymn. When finished he descended holding a different note (“iiiii”) until he reached the ground. He reentered the town house, was relieved of his robe, and sat down. Then the purifiers each took a gourd, dipped it into the cauldron, and took it to the clan’s headman. The latter drank a little, rubbed some on his chest, and handed it to the rest of his clan to do the same. When everyone finished, the Yo Wah hymn was sung again.

Two hours before sunset, the Uku led everyone to the river, prayed, then told them all to bathe. The men went upstream, the women and children downstream. All faced east and plunged under the water, faced west, and did the same. This was repeated seven times, then all got out, changed into fresh clothes, and returned to the town house. The Uku then sacrificed the leaf-wrapped deer tongue on the new fire along with some nawak’osis. The number of times the meat popped indicated the number of deaths that would occur during the year, and if the smoke did not rise directly, it indicated there would be much sickness among the people. Then the Uku placed his crystal on top of seven folded skins. If the people would be healthy, it would flash clearly; if not, it would get smoky and those who would die would be seen in the crystal. At sunset, the Yo Wah hymn was sung again and then the feast would begin.

The first night there was dancing until midnight, the second day another general house beating, on the third a repeat of the second, and on the fourth a repeat of the first. All remained awake on the fourth night, with the women dancing all night. On the morning of the fifth day, the Uku made sacrifices again, then removed the basket of evergreens from the cauldron and took it to the east side of the town house, placed it there, and left. Then the chanter left, then the other principles, then everyone else. It was over.

The next feast was called Eelah Uahtah Lay Kee. Its time was also set at the Nung Tah Tay Quah Feast and was generally after Ah Tawh Hung Nah. Once all had assembled in the town square, a man with an open-topped box danced among them while chanting. Whoever he passed would place some nawak’osis in the box. When it was filled, he would depart. On the first three evenings of the feast, all would sit around the perimeter of the square while pairs of costumed men and women danced around a large fire in the center of the square. Six of the men carried hoops bisected with sticks with feathers attached and the rest carried evergreen boughs. The dance would end at midnight when the hoops and boughs were placed in the town house until the next night. On the fourth night, there was a feast, and at midnight the man with the box reappeared and everyone was allowed to take a piece of nawak’osis from the box. Then they pulled some evergreen leaves from the dancers’ boughs (except for those of four couples), crumbled the leaves in their hands, mixed them with the nawak’osis, approached the fire in concentric circles, and after some show of reluctance, threw the mixture into the fire. This ended the feast.

The next feast, the First New Moon of Spring Feast, usually occurred when the snows melted and the first new shoots of grass appeared. Before the day, the Uku and his seven prime counselors would meet and appoint seven women to perform the stone coat dance (commemorating the slaying of a stone-coated monster who taught them all their songs while he was dying). After the dance, the exact day of the new moon was determined and messengers were sent to advise the smaller towns of the day of the feast. Hunters were sent out for game. The skin of one buck, doe, and fawn were whitened with clay. The buck was dressed whole with heart, lungs, and liver left in. The day before the feast, the people gathered and the hunters placed their catch in the storeroom. The whitened deerskins were taken into the town house. An attendant renewed the altar and prepared a pile of the inner bark of seven different kinds of trees (taken only from the east side of the trees and free of worms or flaws) for the sacred fire. That night everyone feasted and visited, and the women performed the Stone Coat Dance. Then everyone retired.

Before dawn the leaders of the clans entered the town house and took their places; then the rest followed them. The attendant placed the deerskins next to the fire with the heads pointed toward it. He then sprinkled fresh blood from another animal on the skins and drew a line in the blood on each from nose to tail. He placed a crystal on each and sprinkled nawak’osis flower buds (gathered the year before) on them. After the sun rose, the Uku ordered the entire group to the river. The people were supposed to look straight ahead all the way to the river. Bringing up the rear were the seven councilors carrying baskets of medicinal roots, the chief speaker carrying a basket of small flags, the Uku’s assistant carrying seven folded deer skins containing crystals, and last the Uku. Seven tables with benches for the leaders were set up by the river and the assistant placed a skin on each table. He then took the small flags, dipped the end of each stick into the water, and then planted them at intervals about the same distance as their height away from the river and parallel to it. The people were urged to closely watch the flag nearest them and note if anything crawled out of the river there, since if anything did and fought near a flag, whoever was closest to that flag would either die or suffer great distress. After a suitable period of flag watching, everyone was ordered into the river fully dressed. They all faced east and immersed themselves entirely seven times (even infants were dunked by their mothers).

Meanwhile the Uku unfolded the seven deerskins to reveal their crystals and covered the tables with the medicinal roots. The people would then come out of the river according to age (oldest first), go to their clan table, walk around it four times, wet the tip of their right forefinger, draw it along the length of the crystal, then draw it from their forehead to their stomach, take a piece of medicinal root, return to the town, and change into dry clothes. The rest of the day was spent fasting.

At sunset all gathered at the town house. The Uku picked up the nawak’osis flowers from the whitened deerskins and flung them into the fire. Then he took the inevitable leaf-wrapped tongue tip (from the whole dressed buck), and flung it into the fire. If bits of it popped to the east, all was well, if to the west, someone would die. After this the buck was cooked and small pieces distributed to everyone along with a thick centli porridge. Everyone had to have some of each and all had to be consumed before dawn. Some of the ritual scratching (long gashes with fish bones, pieces of flint, or even snake fangs on arms and legs) was done at this time. The medicinal root was partly chewed and the juice rubbed on the body. Only infants were allowed to sleep that night and the women performed the Stone Coat Dance all night. At dawn the festival was over. The next day the Uku set the date for a special dance followed by the making of a new fire seven days later. On the appointed night, dancing proceeded all night long. The next morning the seven chosen men made the new fire. This was done with rubbing sticks and block using certain dried weeds for kindling. This fire was transferred to the hearth and from it coals were taken to each home to start a new fire. The tongue of the next deer killed by the man of each household was sacrificed to the new fire in his house.

The next feast was called Sah Looh Stu-knee Keeh Steh Steeh. It was held as soon as the centli reached a stage where it was fit to eat although still quite green. As usual, it was preceded by a six-day hunt with the leading hunter preserving the tongue bit from his first buck kill wrapped in leaves. Meanwhile a special attendant was charged with finding a perfect ear of centli among the fields of each of the seven clans and delivering them to the seven counselors. The Uku and his assistants and the counselors entered the town house and fasted for the six days. On the evening of the sixth day, the hunters brought in their game, and each family offered a sample of every kind of fruit available to them either prepared or raw. All was placed in the storeroom. The tongue bit was presented to the Uku, and then the night was spent in dancing silently with solemnity.

At sunrise the Uku was presented with the seven ears of centli and the people were ordered to abstain from all labor and levity. The altar was renewed as in the last feast and the people gathered in and around the town house. At dusk the Uku took the tongue bit in his right hand and seven kernels of centli (one from each ear) in his left hand, raised his hands above his head, said a special prayer, and tossed the meat and centli into the fire, followed by ground nawak’osis. If the meat popped westward or the smoke settled over the altar, it was a bad omen. After this, a feast was served in the square and all sat down to eat except the Uku, his assistant, and the seven counselors who had to fast until sunset and could only eat stored food at this time. Seven days later, there was another gathering at the square for a banquet of new fruits in which the Uku and the others could partake. This ended the feast.

The last feast was called Tung Nah Kaw Hoon Gh-ni and was celebrated forty to fifty days after the previous feast or as soon as the centli was ripe. Once the centli looked ready, a special dance was performed and everyone was alerted that the feast would begin in about twenty days. Hunters secured game; an arbor of green boughs and a large booth with rows of seats were set up in the town square. Also, a hole was dug in the center of the square and a large shade tree that had been cut down close to its base was “planted” in the hole. Each of the men secured a tree bough for the first day of the feast. That first morning, the men performed a special dance while holding their green bough in their right hand. The leader held a rattle and led the others around the tree seven times while they jumped, shouted, sang, and ran. The Uku and other leaders sat in the booth and the women and children sat around the periphery of the square. At sunset, the men stopped and put away their boughs; then all took part in social dances. This was repeated for four days; then a great feast was held and all went home.

There were lesser festivals at each new moon, slightly more impressive on the other two seasonal new moons, and a small sacrifice was offered every seven days. There was also a special Ookah Festival that was only held every seven years. It was a thanksgiving feast but mostly was to honor the Uku. On the feast day, he was washed and dressed in his special installation yellow clothes by attendants, then carried with music and song to a special white chair with a canopy and footstool. He sat there a bit, and then was carried to another similar chair set up in the middle of the town square. Here he remained silently all night while the people danced. The next day he was carried into a marked-off circle also in the square where he was set on his feet. He began a slow step dance looking right and left and bowing to and being bowed to by each spectator he passed. The other leaders followed him mimicking his steps. After completing a circuit of the circle, the Uku was returned to his chair and the leaders stood watch over him. In the afternoon, a banquet was served and all the people except the Uku and the leaders sat down and ate. The latter had to wait until sunset. After eating, the Uku was returned to his own house and redressed in his ordinary clothes. Except for the bath, the entire ritual was repeated for four days. On the fourth day, once replaced on his chair after his dance, the Uku was reconsecrated in his position by his assistant. He only wore the yellow clothes at his investment and at this feast; otherwise, he and the other leaders always wore white.

These festivals very much defined life among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya. They were a very united, supportive, reverent, respectful, dignified, and generous people. If any of these attributes rubbed off on me, it is entirely their doing, and it was an honor to have lived so many of my formative years among them and be viewed by them as a kinsman. I have always happily taken part in any of the festivals when I found myself among them. I still remember all the dances and most of the chants and songs. I hope I can spend my last years among them, but at the moment, that is out of my hands.

Mathilde and her family could only stay through the end of the feast since Aspenquid had to return to his duties. He had decided not to go on the southern campaigns until his children were a little older. I could understand this decision but thought it would impede his career. Of course, I said nothing, since it wasn’t my place and they were all happy about it. I was sorry to see them go, but resolved to visit them in the fall and perhaps make a serious effort to find my dream girl in the process.

As it turned out, just as I was preparing to go north I received a letter from my father calling me home. He felt I was at the age when I had to choose how to make my way in the world and home was the best place to make that choice. Much as I wanted to go on my northern quest, it never occurred to me to defy my father and I sent a note to Mathilde explaining the change of plans. I made all my farewells, many with a heavy heart. I was old enough to make the trip home by myself and I planned to do just that. I secured two horses, loaded one up with my belongings, and mounting the other, turned southwest.
I decided to stop at my quest mountain since it would be on the way. I reached there on the evening of the first day since I set a good pace. I tied the horses near the spring and climbed up the rest of the way on foot. That night I dreamt I was flying above the mountain. My guide joined me and we both flew southwest all the way to Cuauhnahuac. I awakened convinced my journey would be uneventful. I returned to the stream, bathed, filled up the water gourds, and continued on my way. I did not seek out the merchant or courier trails but wandered through the woods along hunting trails using my skills to guide myself southwest. I came out of the woods, after a few days, near the westward bend of the West Tsoyaha River. There was a town near the bend, so I stopped there to spend the night. It was an Ani’ Yun’-wiya town with only a few dozen houses.

I was warmly welcomed as the son of the Uku of Itsati and was pressed upon to spend the night with the shaman and his family. His name was Moytoy and he was a very tall, dignified young man with a young wife and small children. His brother, Tathtowe, was also visiting. The latter had just returned from campaign in the south and was on his way to their hometown, Setacoo, a few days upstream on the West Tsoyaha. I asked him about his campaign experiences and, to my surprise, found a talker.

He managed to get himself sent to the Khanate of the Clouds instead of the Green Mist and had recently finished his three-year tour (actually, it was deceptive calling it a “three-year tour” since the time spent getting there and training were not counted, so they generally took at least four years). When he arrived in the Khanate, the land of the Muisca had just been taken in a fairly easy campaign. Just as Cocatli had suggested, they were accused of attacking the Pache after the latter had joined the Khanate. He did not go up to their high plateau, but trained a short distance southeast of the capital. He was eventually sent south. To his great disappointment, he found that he would not be campaigning in the mountains, but in the jungle. When they reached Tanguwa, instead of continuing south, they turned sharply east, went through a mountain pass and after moving some distance south along the eastern foothills of the mountain chain, descended into the jungle. The next three years were spent in infiltration and ambush punctuated with sickness and fatigue. Most of his Ordu’s losses were from sickness, but with arrow poison erratically in use, to be wounded might be to die, so all wore the thick cotton “armor” to deflect the darts, while increasing the misery from the heat and humidity.

It was quite an expedition. There were ten tumen assigned to go as far east as they could in the three years while another two were sent south from the previous conquests until they met an organized foe; then they were to turn east also and go as far as they could. The latter quickly ran into the Chimu and turned east eventually also ending in the jungle.

It was frequently a very hard campaign for the northern ten tumen. There were no borders, no large cities, no pitched battles, no organized resistance, and no front line. If the locals saw them, they usually melted away into the jungle and could not be found. If they were surprised in their towns, they would flee immediately without making any pretense of defending their homes. They would only fight if surrounded, and it was very hard to surround their towns and villages, since they were always on rivers, some of which were very wide and swift. But the men would fight to the death and the women and children would surrender. Any surrenders were accepted and the survivors allowed to remain in place, with no demands made on them. This made for a very bewildered foe, but did induce a few towns to surrender rather than run. Eventually a sort of Ordu was organized from among them that traveled everywhere by boat.

Tathtowe’s tumen was about halfway down the line of march with five tumen to the north and four to the south. When they scrambled down the deep ravines and gorges into the jungle, they found themselves among a people called the Kicho. This proved to be an advantage since they were friendly with the Latacunga who had already allied with us. They spoke a similar language and had powerful chiefs. After some reassurance, they reluctantly allied with us and helped us. They lived in huts near their fields, but would repair to towns for market days. The men wore either nothing (with their manhood tied up) or a cloak knotted over the shoulders. The women wore cotton loincloths. They deformed their heads making them look rather pointed. They wore golden nose and chest ornaments, and a thin labret through the upper lip. Some wore feathered ear spools. Their weapons included spears and wooden swords like the Latacunga. They are very superstitious, giving much time to divination and magic and much worry over spirits and demons. They revere birds, trees, mountains, rivers, etc. They understood our “bizarre” prohibition against cannibalism and grudgingly acquiesced. The next people they met were called the Kofan. They were very hard to pin down and the difficult terrain made surrounding settlements nearly impossible. Not many of them were captured; most fled east where the tumen followed. Eventually they began to run into their less-than-friendly neighbors, who came to be named the Pioje (the word meant “no” in their language, and was the apparently the one most used by them in dealing with the tumen). Faced with no choice, the Kofan began surrendering since they feared the unknown less than the known. He couldn’t tell me much about them since he only saw them as bedraggled refugees.

The Pioje lived on both sides of a river (eventually named for them). They lived in small villages from three to nine li apart and more than nine li from the river. Each village seemed to be a single extended family in less than ten houses. They wore either nothing or a type of loin covering made of bark cloth or fiber. Their hair was long and worn braided and wound around the head with a piece of cloth, but they plucked their eyebrows and lashes. They wore earplugs, nose ornaments, and some wore feathers or sticks in holes near the corners of their mouths. They all painted their bodies and faces and some even painted their mouths black and teeth red. Some stuck cotton fuzz on their bodies and some wore circlets of feathers on their heads. All wore a profusion of necklaces, bracelets, and chest bands made from seeds, beads, animal teeth, and anything else deemed suitable.

They were armed with the bow and poison arrows as well as spears and clubs. They were not well organized, but seemed to belong to subgroups which viewed other groups with varying degrees of hostility. They were not great warriors but would let loose a shower of spears and arrows, then melt into the forest. The tumen was still working its way down their river when their replacement tumen came up. No one volunteered to do another tour. On the long march back, he compared notes with friends in the other tumen. It seemed the worst of it was in the north where the use of the poison arrow was more common. The fiercest warriors, however, were in the south, the Chiwaro. Fortunately, their only weapons were spears and shields with an occasional copper axe and they were not well organized. Had they used the arrow poison they might have prevailed. As it was, they were the most implacable of foes and few could be induced to surrender. He also mentioned that the remnants of the tribe responsible for killing my cousin Ignace were found and they quickly and abjectly surrendered. They were called the Kanale and had been reduced to a handful of villages living on the eastern frontier of what had been their land.

Tathtowe strongly suggested that I not volunteer for service in the south until George decided he had enough jungle and was ready to move along the coast again. From what he heard, the Chimu would be an interesting foe. I thanked him for his counsel. The next morning I continued on my way staying along the southern shore of the West Tsoyaha River until it turned north, then continued westward staying well north of the path I had taken so many years before. Each night I would stay at either a yam or a town and while there were many veterans, I could not find another talker.

One of the towns I visited proved to be inhabited by the Chikasha who had run afoul of the Mongols in the early days of the Khanate. They were quite friendly to me and many boasted of their brave deeds on the southern campaigns but could give me no useful information. I crossed the Missi Sipi in a reliable Taunika boat with the horses swimming alongside. I set out for the great Kadohadacho capital with a view to see how it had changed since Grandfather first described it. It took a few days, but at last I found myself on a bluff above a huge sprawling city on both sides of a wide river with a pontoon bridge joining it. The land near the river was under cultivation but the town covered the high ground. The mounds were on the southern side of river, so I passed through the other part and followed the trail to the bridge, crossed it, and began my climb up to the city square.

6
Journey Home, 90–1K
(SE OK to NE Mexico, 1458–9)

I was relieved that I did not attract much attention. There was quite a lot of traffic on the roads through the town. Apparently, this was the norm since it didn’t appear to be market day or any sort of festival. I made my way to the town square and looked at the mounds with the buildings on them. They were much as Grandfather described them, although they looked larger than I expected. Not that they came close to the temple pyramids in Anahuac, but they were higher than the mounds of the Pansfalaya and the southeast towns (at least taller than the ones I had seen). As I was studying them, a pair of young men approached and greeted me. One was tall and dark complexioned with little adornment, while the other was shorter, lighter, and bedecked with bangles, earrings, and feathers.

“Welcome stranger,” the taller one said. “Might you be related to the great healer, John of Cuauhnahuac?” “He is my father,” I replied, not a little surprised that he was known here.

“I was right,” the young man told his companion. Then he continued to me, “I am your kinsman, Tlapac, son of Citlalcoatl. This is my cousin Kinahiwi,” he indicated his companion, “the nephew and heir of the Xinesi.”

I greeted both politely, and then asked how we were related. Tlapac explained that my father’s first wife, Metztlaconac, was his cousin, his great grandmother’s niece. He added that while neither he nor Kinahiwi had ever met my father they knew him quite well by reputation. It seemed that my father had helped both Citlalcoatl and the Xinesi in the past and both remained grateful and indebted. He added that his great-grandfather was the great Texcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror), who had been my grandfather’s longtime friend and companion. Kinahiwi interjected that his great-granduncle had been my grandfather’s implacable foe. As often was the case in the north, inheritance was through the mother rather than the father, but since the Xinesi was preferably a male, it devolved on the son of the current Xinesi’s sister. Of course, if only a woman was available, she could be Xinesi and then the title would pass to her son. (I understand that has happened recently.)

I was embarrassed not to have known a relative, but while my father had been close to Tlapac’s family when he was younger, I had never visited them and hadn’t recognized the names. I was amazed to have run into the descendant of my grandfather’s old companion in the very spot where he had originally met him. I remarked on the coincidence and Tlapac was surprised that I had remembered the place of our ancestors’ original meeting. I explained that I had come to this town to see one of the important places that my grandfather had visited that was also not too far out of my way back home.

“Well, then,” he said, “one more thing is necessary to make the experience complete. You must be introduced to the Xinesi.”

 

“But, I have no rank or standing,” I protested. “It would be an insult to present me to him.” “Oh, no,” Kinahiwi protested. “We would be sore remiss if we denied him a chance to offer hospitality to the son of the man who saved his life. In fact, he would be most upset with us.”

There was no avoiding it, they insisted on taking me to meet him. I was rather pleased with the idea of recreating my grandfather’s activities in the city, but was still rather uncomfortable with being presented to someone of such rank. Even though my grandfather had been a Khan and my uncles and some of my cousins had also been and currently were Khans, my father was just a healer and I had no rank at all.

We went up the mound to the Xinesi’s residence. This surprised me since Grandfather was left at the foot of the mound while his guide sought an audience. I was brought right into the large airy anteroom and made comfortable on a carved wooden bench while Kinahiwi went to get his uncle. While waiting, I remarked to Tlapac how impressed my grandfather had been with the perception of the then Xinesi, and, in fact, how many of the latter’s misgivings had been borne out. He looked at me and seemed puzzled by what I had said. Presently, Kinahiwi and the Xinesi joined us. The latter was tall, but shorter than me. He was slim and muscular and wore little adornment except for a shell gorget and gold earrings. His dark eyes searched mine for a moment; then he smiled broadly and bid me return to my seat.

“You do not look much like your father, except for the pale skin and blue eyes,” he shrugged, “but that is unmistakable. Did he ever tell you about our meeting?’

 

“No, my father rarely spoke of his work.”

“I am not surprised, I took him for a modest man. I’ll tell you about it. It was a long time ago and far from here. I was an adventurous youth and wanted to see world. I first went to Khanbalikh (the original site of the Eagle Ordu had become the capital of the Khanate of the Blue Sky and was named for the capital of the old Mongol Empire in the old land), then westward along the Mongol River eventually coming to the Great Western Ocean. I followed it southward ultimately arriving at the Mexcala River, which I followed inland until I reached the lands of the Tlahuica and visited Cuauhnahuac. There I presented myself to your grandfather who received me quite warmly. Your father and his children were in the north during my visit. I went on to Tlatelolco and met your cousin, John, the Khan at that time, then turned east to visit my kinsmen, Tlapac’s family. He was not yet born, of course, but I did get to meet his father and grandfather and the former took me to see the lands of the Maya. I then began to return home, but it was suggested that I visit the islands in the Eastern Sea instead. I agreed and was soon on my way to visit Xaymaca, Cuba, and Aiti before I returned to the mainland. As I was passing through the land of the Timacua, I began to feel ill. By the time I reached the towns of the A’palachi, I had to be carried on a litter. Their shaman was at a loss to help me, but he had heard that a skilled healer was in one of the nearby towns and he sent for him. It proved to be your father. I was delirious with fever when he got to me. I remember seeing a pale face with intense blue eyes that had already seen too much pain looking down on me. He worked on me for days. I would slip in and out of awareness and whenever I awakened he was always there. Needless to say, I recovered, but he left once I was out of danger because he had heard that there was someone else in need of help. When I was able to travel, I went after him to thank him properly, but it took a long time to find him. The person he had left me to help was a very old man who had been accidentally badly wounded by an arrow. He told me John had gone north to help in another town. I finally found that town, but again was too late, because he had gone on to the Snake Ordu. That was out of my way, but I was determined, so I followed. Again I had missed him, but this time, with typical Ordu efficiency, they knew exactly where he had gone and when. I arrived at the small town and found it in the throws of the Zhen plague. I found John and before I could speak, he asked if my party and I had ever had the Zhen plague. I replied that we had and he immediately put us all to work helping with the sick. I realized over the next few days that he didn’t remember me; he had no idea of my rank and was consumed with his work. I had never worked so hard in my life as I did in that small village and I will always relish the memory and the man who gave it to me.”

“Did you ever make yourself known to him?”
“No, and I forbade my companions to do so, but I heard he was told later by someone at the Snake Ordu.” “To be honest with you, my father was always consumed by his work, he had little time for anything else.” “Is that a criticism?” he seemed surprised.

“Not at all, only an observation. I was by no means neglected and he took personal interest in my education. I am on my way back to Cuauhnahuac now after years among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya because he has called me back.”

“Ah, the Ani’ Yun’-wiya, your relatives Tlapac. Will you also be a healer?”
“No, I have no such talent or interest. My brother, Theodore, is a healer just like my father.” “And you. What will you do with yourself?”

“I think I will join an Ordu and go on campaign in the Khanate of the Clouds,” I replied with some misgivings. In truth I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself.

 

“All young men need a taste of battle, I suppose. I had mine in the Khanate of the Green Mist, but the less said about that the better. Come let us eat now; then you must spend a few days with us.”

We had a very tasty meal. The Kadohadacho were not afraid to use the various chilies from the south. The Xinesi spoke at length about many things especially his travels, but he would not talk about his campaign experiences. After our meal he had to attend some duties so Kinahiwi and Tlapac took me with them to see town. I asked them if they had noticed how so many warriors refuse to talk about their campaign experiences. Kinahiwi observed that it was probably so that the young would experience things for themselves without any bias. Tlapac thought it was because the campaign was an unpleasant memory not worth revisiting. They knew of no one in the town who would talk of his campaigning. Both also thought they would go on campaign. Kinahiwi felt he would have to follow his uncle to the Khanate of the Green Mist, since it would be expected. Tlapac, on the other hand, would, like me, serve in the Khanate of the Clouds. He admitted that he was not looking forward to it, but still thought he should go.
I was impressed with his honesty and suggested that perhaps we might join and serve together. He thought that a great idea, although he would not be able to join for a while yet since his father had sent him north on many errands and he was not done yet. I told them what I had learned so far about the southern campaigns and they got out a map and we traced out the various campaigns as best we could with the incomplete map. I slept that night in the same room with my two new friends, and the next day we set off early so we could do a little hunting. While we were on our way into the forest, I asked them if they knew the site of the ancient abandoned town on the Kadohadacho River that my grandfather had mentioned. They considered it a while, and decided that if it was the one they thought it was, it was a few li to the east. I realized I must have to gone right by it. They were not inclined to visit it, so I decided to see it another time. I then threw caution to the winds and asked them if they thought their people were better off under the Khanate than they would be had the Mongols never come. Both looked at me with some bewilderment.

“That is a most puzzling question from the grandson of one the Khanate’s founders,” Tlapac finally said. “I can’t imagine why you would have to ask,” Kinahiwi added, shaking his head in disbelief.

“An old Ani’ Yun’-wiya warrior I met,” I explained, “seemed to think the Khanate had made things too easy by preventing many of the consequences of natural disasters and too hard by forcing the young men to travel so far from home to prove themselves in battle.”

“My unfortunate great-granduncle’s obstinacy might have cost my people many lives had he not died before the great plagues,” Kinahiwi rejoined. “I would not want to contemplate life without the Khanate.”

“Your old warrior,” Tlapac added, “seemed to value little the lives of the very young and the very old. Thanks to the Khanate they do not die of starvation because of a fire, a flood, or a storm. It is true that the southern campaigns take us far from home, but at least we need not worry about our wives and children suffering depredation from some nearby enemy while we are on campaign.”

“I think he felt we have interfered with the will of his god,” I suggested, “and perhaps changed too many of the things he remembered from his youth.”

 

“Did his god wish his people ill?” Tlapac asked. “If so, he should have been grateful for the intervention. Anyway, things always change and it is foolish to expect them to remain the same.”

I decided to say no more on that subject, but I felt they were too young to really understand or respond to Oganaya’s assertions. We brought back a few deer from our hunt and gave them to the Xinesi’s servants. I spent a few more days with Tlapac and Kinahiwi, then told them I had better get on my way. I took my leave of the Xinesi (he bid me to take his best wishes to my father and gave me a rather large piece of the blue-green stone, called teoxihuitl in Nahual, for him). I thanked him for his hospitality and generosity to my father, but he waved it off as if it were nothing adding that in the likely event my father didn’t feel right about accepting it, he could donate it to my cousin, the Khan, for his treasury.

Actually, I suspected that he would keep it before he donated it to the Khan. I took my leave of Tlapac and Kinahiwi before we retired (since I would leave before first light) and urged them to come to visit me in Cuauhnahuac. I awoke early, dressed quietly, and left the sleeping household. I descended to the town square to find a servant holding my two horses and handing me a plate of centli mush for my morning meal. I ate it quickly, thanked him, gave him a small gift for the staff, and mounted up. I turned south on the main road, away from the river. There were already sounds of activity coming from many of the houses as I moved through the city. The sky was just beginning to lighten when I passed the last of the houses and entered the forest.

I had decided to make my way to the Pelican Ordu. Although my brother was no longer there, I thought I might find a talker among so many warriors. The yams along the forest track were interesting. They were always in a clearing near a stream. The houses were of the Kadohadacho style at first, but eventually became rather rude attempts to imitate them. The latter yams were run by members of various other tribes who tried to keep up with their northern neighbors. These were mostly Ishak and Titskan Watitch, but there were a few surprises like a Taunika, a Dinne, and even one who turned out to be a Mongol. This last one proved to be a talker. His yam was just at the edge of the forest overlooking the Ishak River. I had come out of the forest at dusk about a day’s ride north of the Pelican Ordu. Seeing the yam, I decided I had best spend the night there. I presented myself to the manager and an attendant quickly led away my horses. The manager, a short, wrinkled but muscular man with broad shoulders and a trim physique, introduced himself as Nambi. Thinking of my nephew, Aju, I asked if he had been named for a Mongol. He replied that he had, his grandfather.

“Your grandfather was a Mongol?” I asked.
“Yes, as was my father and as am I,” he replied patiently.
“I didn’t think there were any left,” I ventured stupidly.

“When you consider that there were nearly five thousand Mongols and only four Ferengi in the initial migration nearly a hundred years ago, it is far more surprising that there is still a Ferengi than that there is still a Mongol.”

I apologized for my lapse of logic and asked him about his family history. Delighted to oblige me, he invited me to share his evening meal while he told his story. His father’s father had been named Buri. He and his mother’s father (for whom he had been named) were both young men at the time of the migration. They often spoke of the hard passage through the frozen north and always talked of Kaidu with reverence. They had also honored the legendary Givevneu. They looked upon Juchi and the Raven as heroic figures, somehow more that human, although at first they did not trust the pale Raven. The two had taken Mongol brides shortly after they reached the new land. His father, Kamala, had been born at the old Hawk Ordu and his mother, Borte, at the old Eagle Ordu, now called Khanbalikh. His grandfathers had served together at first, but eventually were separated and one, Nambi, went on most of Juchi’s expeditions, while the other spent most of his time training recruits at the Owl Ordu. Both took part in all the campaigns in the north. His namesake was killed during Juchi’s campaigns in the south; Buri retired from the Ordu and died of old age while running a yam in the north.

His father had also gone on campaign in Anahuac, but he had been with the Antelope Ordu and served under my grandfather Padraig for a while. He was wounded fighting the Texcalla bandits, but had recovered and served in occupation and training for a while. He also took part in the early campaigns for the southern landmass in what became the Khanate of the Green Mist. He got quite ill after five years of campaigning and returned home. He never recovered his former strength and eventually retired to run a yam between the Owl and the Eagle Ordu.

I asked about his experiences and he answered readily. He had been born in the Antelope Ordu after his father had returned from Anahuac. He left for the southern campaign as soon as his father returned. He arrived in the middle of the first campaign east of the Warao River. He was kept behind the lines to train in the delta of the Warao for several months before joining the campaign. He thought that had been a good idea, for it helped him get accustomed to the heat and humidity before he also had to contend with battle. He had become ill during training, but had recovered in a few weeks.

He was sent to the front where the people along the coast called themselves the Locono and the people away from the coast were the Akawai. The former spoke a language related to that of the Taino, although they did not acknowledge any relationship to them. The latter seemed to be a different people, although they looked much like the former. Both pierced ears and nose septums for ornaments and the Akawai also used a labret. Tattooing was common but not excessive. The Locono did indulge in face tattooing. The Locono also used body paint heavily while the Akawai generally only painted their faces. Down feathers were often stuck on the bodies and the Akawai favored sticking them on their foreheads. Hairstyles were quite varied and many wore hats or headbands made of leaves, wicker, or nets and covered with feathers, tassels, knots, or insect wings. They also wore necklaces and leg and armbands, but little else (the Locono women did wear a very short skirt, however).

The houses of both peoples were either round or rectangular with a high-pitched roof made of a wooden frame covered with a thatch of palm leaves. The villages were generally small and widely scattered with perhaps fifty to a hundred usually related people in each. They had no real organization or leadership. Each village had a headman, but his authority was limited and dependent on consent. By the time Nambi had joined the campaign, there was some cooperation among villages and their war parties grew bigger and slightly more effective. Their weapons were the bow, club, and lance. Sometimes they used poison arrows and the Locono used a light shield. The people were much inclined toward cannibalism and the taking of slaves. The only reasons the campaign took so long were because of all the sickness among the Ordu and the need to use infiltrative tactics in the very difficult terrain.

After this campaign Nambi spent the next three years training the new arrivals. He rejoined the front, as jagun commander while the Zhen plague was raging through the tribes. Progress became quite rapid and he, also, was disgusted with the tactic. He met Oganaya during this time, although the latter was of higher rank and in a different tumen. It was hard to say anything about the people they encountered during the plague years. Those not dead or dying were dispirited and defeated, waiting to die. When this tour ended, he was at the mouth of the Juchi River and he was glad to leave. He returned to the Khanate of the Blue Sky and indulged in the inevitable travel. He spent a long time in the far north especially the lands of the Kensistenoug and the Siksika, eventually marrying one of the latter, Amunis Ahki. (She was a wonderful, warm, cheerful woman who was delighted that I could speak her native language.) He stayed with her people for a few years, and then went with a group of the young Siksika to rejoin the campaign.

Because of his experience, he was made minghan commander and sent right down to join the current campaign. He found them at the easternmost end of the landmass fighting the Tupinamba, Tegulun had told me about. He did not know Tegulun, although he did run into Oganaya again. He left the campaign about a year after the latter, rejoined his wife, and talked her into running a yam with him. She agreed, but insisted that they go south enough to escape the severe winters. They took over this yam from an old Titskan Watitch who wanted to go home to die. I asked him if he had ever lived in a yurt. He laughed and replied he had always lived in one until he left to campaign. Now, however, a man must live in the house of his wife’s choice. Amunis Ahki had lived in one of the conical hide tents all her life, but had liked the quasi Kadohadacho house they found here and wanted to live in it. I did not think it wise to ask Nambi if he felt the Mongols were good for the new land.

I moved on the Pelican Ordu the next morning arriving there a little before sundown. I was greeted by a few of the young men who remarkably remembered my visit to the Ordu so long ago. One of them, Halbi, a Pansfalaya, prevailed on me to spend the night with his family. To my surprise, they actually lived in a Pansfalaya house, looking quite out of place amid all the hide tents and scattering of yurts. After dinner Halbi, his younger brothers, and his father, Ofotaska sat around the fire and talked a while. Ofotaska had been in the southern campaigns several years and was now a jagun commander, but he would only talk about battle tactics, not the big picture. Halbi would be leaving for the south in the winter and was all excited about it. I explained that if my father allowed it, I would go on campaign later this year also. They invited me to stay with them a few days and I agreed.

After joining them in a two-day hunt, I wandered around the Ordu a little looking for some old soldiers. There didn’t seem to be any except for some Mongols. The other old soldiers all seemed to go home to their birth villages to die. I suspected that would be changing eventually with all the people who had been born at the Ordu and were of mixed tribal ancestry. It occurred to me that these would always be loyal to the Khanate since it was all they knew. Even if they visited their kinsmen, they would feel much more at home with the Ordu than at their parents’ villages. Perhaps it was already too late to return to the way things had been, if, indeed, that was actually desirable.

I decided to move on and bid my hosts good-bye, inviting them also to visit me in Cuauhnahuac should they ever find themselves there. I set out early and continued along the Ishak River for a while, but then I turned away before reaching the coast along a little-used but still-visible trail that seemed to be going southwest. There were no yams along this trail and I camped in the forest each night. The second day I found a most promising river and did some fishing in some likely looking pools. I caught several large fish and smoked them. I ate one of them and put the remainder away for the rest of my trip. On the fourth day, I came out of the woods and onto a prairie. There was a warm breeze blowing in from the east and I was sure I could smell the ocean. The trail soon gave out on the prairie and I just continued on a more directly southern track.

I finally came upon a small village of the hide tents. I was welcomed politely and I offered them some of my smoked fish. They were pleased with the gift and gave me some dried ox meat in return. I figured out that they were Titskan Watitch, but I didn’t know their language and only one of them knew any Mongol and that not very well, so we didn’t talk much. I left the next morning and turned my track a little east of south so I could get back to the merchant road and the yam system. I reached the road a little before sunset, but since there was no yam in sight, I camped under the stars and ate another of my fish. I reached a small village a little after midday and decided to spend the night. I noticed that there were not many young people in the village, but supposed they were fishing or gathering shellfish. My hosts were rather taciturn.

I continued south staying at yams or small villages along the way. I eventually reached the delta of the Thanuge River. At a village just north of the river, I saw some men landing their catch and recognized it as my favorite fish. I didn’t know its name since I had first had it on my trip north at a yam in the Totonac lands. I offered them some of the dried ox meat for one of their fish and they gladly made the trade. I cleaned and salted it quickly and then pushed on, crossing the pontoon bridge across the Thanuge and continuing south on the trade road. Near dusk I came upon a village. It looked like it had once been large, but now most of the houses were abandoned and falling apart. There were still a few people in the town and I saw an old man sitting quietly in front of his house smoking a pipe. I approached and greeted him, then asked if he would like to share my fish, which I held up for him.

“That is most kind of you,” he replied in perfect Mongol. Then looking up at me, he rose. “I am Kopte and this is Mayapemes. I have seen a few of your kind before. I could tell you our word for that fish, but there would be no point. Soon, no one will speak our language.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Look around you, what do you see?”
“A village that is being abandoned?”

“Deserted, would be a better word. Our young men leave and do not return. Some go north, some go south, some even go west, but none come back. The youngest man in the village had seen forty summers.” “Where do they go?” I asked, as his wife gave me a big smile, took the fish and went off to fix it. “To the various Ordu. It is not an easy life, but it is more agreeable than this one. I should know. I, too, went to the Ordu, but I returned.”

 

“Did you go on campaign?”

 

“Of course. It was far away in a damp, fetid place against an innocent people who had done me and mine no harm.”

“What was it like?”
“Unpleasant.”
“Was it in the Khanate of Clouds?”
“I don’t really know. It was south and east of here, far away.”
“Do you know what people you fought?”
“Naked people who wore feathers.”

“Do you regret going on campaign?” It was obvious Kopte was unaware of the big picture, but I thought he might be of a philosophical bent.

“I regret taking part in the destruction of my own people.”
“Do you think your people would be better off had the Mongols never come this way?”

“Perhaps. But then perhaps another people like them would have come instead. The Mongols may have saved us from a worse fate, or they may be our worse fate. Who can say? And what can I do about it anyway?”

“If the Khanate would be overthrown, would your people be better off?”
“What a strange question. Are you not related to the Khan in Anahuac?”
“Yes, he’s my cousin.”
“What do you think would happen to you and your family if your Khanate was overthrown?” “I don’t know. I suppose we would be exiled.”

“You are very young and must have lived a very sheltered life. You and yours would all be killed, along with your servants and anyone who supported you or was vaguely related to you. The new Khan would not want any pretenders from the family of the old Khan.”

“But what if the whole system were overthrown, and all the people went back to what they had before?” “No one who overthrew the Khanate would be able to resist having such power himself. If he did, someone else would not. There would be war until one ended up on top. That is the way of the world.”

“But it doesn’t have to be.”
“It is.”
“Anyway, do you think your people would be better off?”

“Hardly. No one would be better off in a general war. My people are scattered among the Ordu. They would bear the brunt of the fighting. When the smoke settled in Anahuac, the Blue Sky would swoop down and conquer it all back anyway. Our remnant would find itself in the way and would be swept aside. It would only hasten our disappearance.”

Just then his wife brought in the fish along with some of the flat centli bread called tlaxcalli in Nahual. She had prepared the fish flawlessly and we all ate with great pleasure. I decided that Kopte was too resigned to his fate to see the possibilities that would follow from the dissolution of the Khanate. Of course, it would be best if all four were overthrown at the same time, but I thought that if one went, the others would soon follow. I was an idiot. As I prepared to leave the next morning, Kopte fixed me with an intent look.

“The only thing more foolish than not learning from the past, is trying to return to it,” he said forcefully. “It is good to be young. It is bad to be foolish.”

I politely thanked him for his advice and thanked his wife for preparing the fish the night before. As I rode off I pondered what the old man had said, but was still convinced that it was possible to undo the past no matter what he said. I was sure time would prove me right. It didn’t.

I stuck with the merchant trail and the yam system for a while until I crossed into the greener Huaxteca lands. The first Huaxteca yam I came upon was just outside a small village. The owner was a Huaxteca and like most of his fellows was friendly, considerate, generous, and inscrutable. At mealtime we discussed the weather, the crops, and the hunting. He artfully turned away any other subject I tried to broach. After the third such evening, I got it in my head to turn west and go home through the wild and rugged Ralamari lands. I spent the first night in the open just on the western side of the little range of hills that bisected the Huaxteca lands. I continued across the western valley and picked up a southwesterly path heading for the mountains and the Ralamari. Dusk found me far from any settlement, so I camped for the night. While I was eating supper, a small group of men came in to my camp. I offered them some of my smoked fish. They thanked me and we all sat down by the fire to eat. One went to get some water at a nearby stream. Something hit me on the head and I blacked out.

7
Journey Home, 91 K
(NE MX to Cuernavaca, MX, 1459)

When I came around I had a bad headache, but that was only the first problem I detected. It was also apparent that I was blindfolded, bound hand-and-foot, and draped over the back of a horse that was moving along some rather rugged terrain. The unnatural position left me sore all over and getting more so as the animal continued movement. At length we came to a halt and I could see through my blindfold that there was a nearby fire. I heard some talk, but it was in a dialect that sounded something like Maya, although not enough that I could understand it. Finally, I was taken off the horse and unceremoniously thrown on the ground. Someone reached down and cut my bonds with a knife. I then pulled off my blindfold. I was surrounded by perhaps a dozen men. They were Huaxteca from the look of them. I noticed the men who had joined me for supper among them. The apparent leader, taller than the rest and perhaps thirty years old, was looking at me and shaking his head with a look of disgust on his face.

“You are the son of John, the healer?” he asked me in perfect Nahual.
“Yes, I am,” I replied, beginning to wonder if my brothers were ever so recognized.
“Are you in the service of the Khan or of an Ordu?”
“No.”
“What were you doing where you were found?”

“I am on my way home after spending some years with the Ani’ Yun’-wiya. I decided to go through the lands of the Ralamari instead of staying with the merchant road. Apparently, that was a mistake?”

 

“Yes, and it should have been a fatal one. However, I am in your father’s debt, so I can hardly allow any harm to come to you.”

 

“Are you bandits?”

 

“No, we are patriots. We are struggling to free our people from the yoke of the Khanate. You may call me Balam. What is your name?”

 

“Karl, but I am called Cacalotl.” (Crow in Nahual)

 

“A tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed boy with reddish brown hair is named after a medium-sized black bird with a black beak. Is it a joke?”

 

“No, it was because Karl sounds like the call of a crow, and my grandfather, who was also named Karl was called the Raven.”

 

“Of course, a short, fair-skinned, blue-eyed man with brown hair named after a large black bird with a black beak. Don’t bother explaining it to me. If you want to be called Crow, I’ll call you Crow.” “Did you know my grandfather? You can’t be old enough.”

 

“All Huaxteca know your grandfather. His image is burned into our brain, complete with his scaly armor and snake helmet.”

 

“What do you plan to do with me?”

 

“What can I do? You will be returned to the merchant road on which you will remain until you reach your home. Not all patriots are indebted to your father.”

“There are more of you?”
“Yes, of course. Do you think there are only twelve patriots in all Huaxteca lands?”
“Are you patriots united under one leader or just independent, scattered small bands?”
“I think you know as much about us as is wise already.”
“Why would you want to attack people traveling across your land?”

“At least you admit it is our land. That is refreshing from a Mongol. We attack any foreigners we find on our land as well as any of our people who ally themselves with the Mongols.”

“Do you want the Khanate to be overthrown?”
“I don’t really care. I just want them out of Huaxteca lands. It doesn’t matter how that comes about.” “How could that ever happen unless the Khanate were overthrown?”

“The overthrow of the Khanate would only help if it were not replaced by a similar regime. Being ruled by a Tlatoani is no better than being ruled by a Khan.”

 

“Don’t you think you could better your chances for that end if you got in contact with the other major tribes and worked together?”

“What have you been learning in the north? Is there such a movement there?”
“No, but I have talked to people who think the world would be better off without the Khanate.” “It might, but I am not concerned with the world, only my people.”

“But the Khanate will hunt you down unless they are preoccupied with general revolts all over Anahuac. You need to work with the other tribes to plan a general uprising.”

“That may be helpful, but we will not work with anyone. We don’t trust anyone. If we were to contact Totonac malcontents, they would be more likely to turn us over to the Khanate for any proffered reward than work in concert with us. The Ralamari would simply kill us outright. We have never gotten along with our neighbors.”

“As I remember, my grandfather wrote that your cities fought against each other all the time, and never worked together against his invasion.”

 

“That is true. But now our allegiance is less scattered and some of us are prepared to work together for our independence.”

 

“Do you think you will recapture your old way of life if you succeed?”

 

“Our old way of life included fighting each other as well as our neighbors. Why would we want to go back to that?”

 

“I was thinking more in terms of your culture, arts, religion, things like that.”

“The Mongols never suppressed those things, although they did end some of our sacrifices. We just want to decide for ourselves what is best for us without any deference to foreigners. We also do not wish to take part in wars far from our home against people who have done us no harm to benefit other people far away who have done us no good.”

“It is just that if you alone revolt against the Khanate, you will be easily wiped out.”
“Really? Then why are we still very much alive after four years?”
“Four years! You mean the Khanate has not moved against you?”

“Not seriously. Your Khan is a weak ruler; he invites revolt. We don’t have to worry about general revolts, they will come.”

 

“I hope so. I think the Khanate has done more harm that good.”

 

“If you will take a bit of advice, young Crow, you and your family are unlikely to survive a general revolt. You should not be encouraging it. In fact, you should be very much against it.”

 

“One should always support that in which he believes no matter what the consequences.”

 

“You have much to learn. Farewell. I hope you survive to see your father. If you do, give him my regards. Kan, here, speaks Nahual. He will take you back to the merchant trail.”

Kan stepped forward and fitted me with a blindfold again. He explained that it would be best if I had no idea where I was. I was helped up on my horse and we started out. I decided it would be best if I not speak while I was blindfolded, so we went along in silence in the dark. I could tell that we were going along winding paths generally downhill for some time, and then we seemed to hit a level straight path for a while. I dozed off at this point. I awoke in front of a small campfire in full daylight. My blindfold was off, but Kan was still with me.

“You fell off your horse, so I made camp. I was surprised the fall didn’t wake you.”
“Where are we?”
“Near the merchant road. You should be able to rest in a yam tonight.”
“May I ask why you are named for a day in the Tzolkin calendar?”
“It is a code name. You are familiar with the Maya calendars?”

“Yes, I learned Maya before I left Cuauhnahuac. Is Balam (the Maya word for the large spotted cat called ocelotl in Nahual) also a code name?”

“Of course. Do you understand Huaxteca?”
“No, it only vaguely resembles the Maya I learned.”
“Who taught you the Maya language?”
“It was a man from Chalco.”
“You probably won’t understand Maya unless it is written then.”

We broke camp and continued toward the southeast. I noticed we were on a little used trail that led back toward the ridge that bisected the northern part of the Huaxteca lands. True to his word, we reached the merchant road around midday and he bid me farewell. Once he was well out of sight, I looked through my things, and to my surprise, nothing was missing. They had even replaced the fish I had shared with my captors the previous evening. I continued south along the road and as I had been assured came upon a yam a short distance north of the Huaxteca River, the northern branch of the main river in the land, which had been named the Panuco River.

The man who ran the yam was a typically taciturn Huaxteca who said almost nothing to me. There were some other guests, however, who were interesting. One was a smooth, eloquent Maya merchant named Ah Chan, who assured me that my Maya was excellent. I could tell that he was only being kind, however, because I had a hard time understanding him. He insisted that it was only because he had injected so much merchant jargon into his language that no doubt his own mother would have a hard time understanding him. He missed his calling; he should have been a courtier or an ambassador. Another guest was a Hotcangara merchant named Wangapee, a cheerful, joking sort who told ridiculous stories of his adventures. The last was Penuname, a Menominiwok ininiwok courier attached to the Owl Ordu. He was on his way back from taking dispatches to my cousin, Khan Henry. I had never met anyone from his tribe before and asked him about them. He said they were not much different from the Anishinabe, their northern and western neighbors, but tended to serve only in the nearby Ordu.

I separately asked all three if they thought the Khanate had been good for their people. Ah Chan was the most effusive. He felt that the Khanate was a fabulous boon to trade and travel. He could go almost anywhere in the Khanate without paying for an armed escort as his grandfather had found necessary. His family traded as far away as the Khanates of the Clouds and the Green Mist. In fact, he had relatives living in the former. The Putun Maya had grown fabulously wealthy thanks to the Mongols.

Wangapee also thought that the Khanate had been very good to merchants. He did not feel his people had fared so well under the Mongols, however. He reminded me that his people had been badly mauled in the very first campaign undertaken by the Mongols and had been crushed again in a second campaign. Still, the Mongols had made his people strong again and there was little enmity anymore. Of course, since they had been the most powerful people in the north at one time, one could only speculate what might have been had the Mongols never come.

Penuname felt that the Mongols opened up great opportunities to his people. Some of the older folks resented the gradual changes that had occurred since they joined the Mongols. It is very hard to distinguish between the tribes of the lake country anymore, since they all dressed and adorned themselves the same way and there was so much intermarriage between the tribes. But he was certain all older people resisted change. He knew his people were always respected and honored in the Ordu and he was proud to be a part of the Khanate. I asked if he had ever gone on campaign. He would only say that he had. It was beginning to look like there was hardly a groundswell of revolutionary fervor in the Khanates.
Before I left, I asked the young Huaxteca who brought me my horses if he knew of the patriots in the western hills. He looked at me in complete bewilderment and asked if I was talking about the Ralamari. I told him that I was referring to Huaxteca patriots who were trying to free his people from the Khanate. Had I four heads and wings, he could not have looked upon me with more wonder. He had never heard of such a thing and couldn’t imagine any Huaxteca would be involved in such activity. He assured me that it must be evil Totonac infiltrators trying to bring the wrath of the Khanate upon the innocent Huaxteca. He urged me to tell the Khan that his people were loyal to a man. What bothered me was that he really seemed to be sincere. I even looked back at him a couple of times expecting to find him snickering, but he continued to watch me with earnest concern. Of course, he was just a simple servant at a yam, he probably wasn’t aware of anything beyond the perimeter of the yam, but I had to wonder if Balam and his friends had any local support.

I continued south, crossing the Huaxteca River and then the Panuco River and carefully staying on the merchant road. The road passed near the city of Panuco, which had surrendered to my grandfather without a fight. I decided to go on in and have a look at the city. (He had not actually visited the city during his campaign, but had merely camped outside it.) It was large and very colorful. All the houses were painted brightly in stark colors. I made my way to the center of the city. The main square was also large but in the center was a major surprise to me. They had erected a wall perhaps thirty feet long, twenty feet high and three feet thick. On it was carved and painted a representation of Grandfather and Smoking Mirror much as they must have appeared on the day Panuco surrendered. Both were mounted on horses and in full-feathered regalia. They had pink and red feather headdresses and green and yellow feather cloaks. Their armor showed resplendently silver under the feathers. Smoking Mirror’s obsidian foot was actually a piece of obsidian attached to the stone. Grandfather’s face and hands were a bit too pink, but his eyes were a deep blue and his hair brown. In front of them was a Mongol on foot carrying Grandfather’s black-feathered flag. It was a stunning representation and I stared at it for some time. I wondered if Balam was from Panuco.

“A noble monument to your grandfather, eh?” a tall man next to me said. “I am Kikthawenund, a merchant from the north. You must be the Crow, son of John the Healer and grandson of The Raven.”

 

“Yes, I am,” I replied. “You are Leni lenape, perhaps?”

 

“Indeed, you have a keen eye, young Crow. Come, I am staying with a friend in this city; he will be honored to entertain you also.”

As we went to his friend’s house, he told me that he had met my father in Tenochtitlan just before he left and my father had asked that he keep an eye out for me and urge me to stop dawdling and hurry on home. I asked if there was a problem, but he assured me that it was only because my father wanted to go on a long journey as soon as I had returned and been settled. I found that rather annoying, but I suppose to his mind he was delaying his first responsibility to deal with his second, me. On the other hand, he was right, I was dawdling and was rather enjoying doing so.

Kikthawenund stopped at a very brightly painted house just south of the main square and, turning my horses over to a servant, took me in to meet our host. The latter turned out to be Yquingare, a Purepecha of all things. I had never met one and was startled to see the total lack of hair on his face and head, just as Grandfather had described them. It was odd that they had not changed their peculiar practices, as had most other tribes, but then Yquingare was an older man, perhaps sixty years old and the older ones tend to resist change.

He greeted me warmly, thanking me for allowing him to offer his hospitality. Kikthawenund excused himself so he could complete some business. Yquingare ushered me through a large room containing cane furniture and into an interior courtyard open to the air with many blooming flowers in pots of soil. He took me to some wooden benches that were in the shade and offered me a cool drink of chocolatl. I had not had it cold before and it was quite pleasant.

“How do you like your grandfather’s portrait? It doesn’t quite do him justice, does it?”

“I only knew him as a very old white-haired man. I read a description of his appearance before Panuco, but I had not imagined the costume to be so resplendent.”
“Yes, it is quite a costume. When he conquered my people, he wore only the armor. It was enough, though, he was still impressive.”

“You can’t be old enough to remember that campaign. It was about seventy years ago.”

“No, I am not that old, but my father told me about it, and I saw your grandfather when he was Khan. He wore his snake armor on special occasions, when he reviewed the Ordu. He never wore the feathers, but they were on display in the palace. Perhaps you have seen them?”

“I haven’t been to the palace, yet,” I shook my head. “Father never took me there as a boy, and I have been away in the north for some years.”

 

“No doubt, that oversight will be remedied when you get home. Be sure and look for the display. It is very impressive.”

 

“How is it that you live here in Panuco?”

“My home and family were destroyed by a volcano some years ago. I felt betrayed by the land of my birth, so I left it never to return. I settled here because it is warm and pleasant, full of beauty and, most important, free of volcanoes. Now that I am too old to travel and too rich to need to do so, I stay here.”

“Have you ever heard of a group of Huaxteca who call themselves Patriots?”
“Patriots?”

“Yes, they are trying to drive the Khanate out of Huaxteca lands, but they also seem to be against all foreigners. They captured me in the western hills and would have killed me had not their leader been indebted to my father.”

“You will find there are a lot of people indebted to your father. But I have not heard of these ‘patriots’ and hope I never do again. What were you doing in the western hills?”

“I thought I would return through the Ralamari lands.”
“The Ralamari lands are very rugged, very dry and very dangerous. Do you have a death wish, young Crow?” “No, I didn’t realize it was dangerous, I just wanted to see something different.”

“Stay on the merchant road. There is still, as you have seen, some banditry off the road. It is a holdover from the four years of famine on the high plateau. The Ordu have been busy shuttling grain up from the coast, but they have recently turned their attention to the bandits and should soon wipe them out so that a reckless boy like you can explore the dangerous country.”

“The leader of the patriots said that Khan Henry was weak and that the Khanate would be torn apart with revolts.”

“Khan Henry is kind and merciful, not weak. I think he is the best Khan since your grandfather. I think the leader was engaging in wishful thinking. Except for the Maya, who would rather revolt than eat and perhaps the Mixteca who are almost as bad, there is no general revolt in the wind.”

“Do you think your people are better off under the Khanate?”

“The Purepecha? Who can say? We were an odd people, always at war with our neighbors. We lost most of our army in the conquest, but have flourished since then and are among the richest people in the Khanate. Our worst enemy is the land with its earthquakes and volcanoes, and when they strike, who helps us? The Khanate. I would have to say that on the whole, we are better off. Why do you ask?”

“I have met some people in the north who feel that they would have been better off had the Khanate never been established and wondered how widespread that opinion was.”

“That is rather like feeling you would be better off had you been born to wealthy parents. Perhaps you would have had an easier life, and perhaps envious enemies would have killed your parents and sold you into slavery. Who knows? And since it isn’t the case, why speculate? It is the exercise of a fool.”
“They all seem to resent going so far from home to fight a people who have done them no harm, to the benefit of the southern Khanates who have done them no good.”

“I have never fought a battle, and no one ever asked me to. Joining the Ordu and going on campaign is voluntary. If they don’t like it, they need not do it. With what sort of whining malcontents have you been wasting your time?”

“Many tribes feel that if they do not go on campaign, they are not fully men. They need to prove themselves to hold up their heads among their people.”

“I see. They would rather kill their neighbors, who in turn will retaliate and perhaps kill their wives and children. But all is well, because they did not have to go far from home and they are killing real enemies to their own benefit. Why do you humor fools?”

“But the tribes are losing their identity and culture and becoming a homogeneous imitation of the Mongols, a group of refugees from far away who came uninvited and forced all to submit to their rule.”

“Why did the Mongols leave their own land?”
“I think they were driven out by the Hanjen.”
“Why were they driven out by the Hanjen?”

“Well, if I remember right, they had originally conquered the Hanjen, but the latter chaffed under their rule and eventually drove them out. Kaidu decided to disappear rather that take part in the final futile battle.”

“Your history is a little flawed. The Mongols did not integrate with the Hanjen, but always treated them as inferiors to be despised and oppressed. The Hanjen were very enterprising and soon found a leader adequate to throw off the Mongol yoke. Kaidu learned from his people’s mistake and integrated with the people of the land and treated them with fairness (on the whole) and respect. The Khanate does not oppress or tax heavily and they give us all peace, safety, and even protection from natural disasters. There is no rational impetus to revolt. None of us would be better off without the Khanate. You should read your grandfather’s book on the founding of the Khanate.”

“But is it not better for people to decide their own fate without any outside interference?” I was embarrassed that I had no idea my grandfather had written such a book, so I quickly shifted argument.

“Perhaps. But it has never been thus. There is always a stronger tribe ready to pounce on a weaker one. That is the way of the world. As it happens, in our case the stronger tribe was benign in the long run, and we are much better off.”

I was, of course, still not satisfied with Yquingare’s flawless arguments, but decided I would not discuss the matter further with him and switched the subject to the Huaxteca and what it was like to live among them. He found them very thoughtful, generous, and kind, although they were rather taciturn and reserved. Eventually Kikthawenund rejoined us and we had a pleasant supper while he regaled us with tales of his adventures. It was obvious he was embellishing his stories, but he did so with such charm it didn’t matter. The best one was about a huge sea monster that had been washed up on the shore not far south of Raven Bay on the western coast of the Blue Sky Khanate. He said it was shaped like an octopus but its tentacles were as thick as the body of a man and at least thirty feet long. What an imagination!

The next morning Kikthawenund and I bid our host farewell and rode out of the city together. I asked him if he knew my friend Lapahnihe, but he did not. He had, of course, heard of the great leader Gelelemend. The latter had firmly cemented his tribe to the Khanate. I asked if he thought that was for the best and he assured me it was. Indeed, the Khanate was the best thing that ever came along for his people. I still wasn’t convinced. We parted at the merchant road, and he urged me to hurry along home as my father had requested. I assured him I would. My interest was piqued about Grandfather’s book. I had always thought that my father had all of my grandfather’s books and I had read (or at least looked at) all of them. I decided I would have to read them all again once I got back, and try to find the missing one.
I stayed on the merchant road and spent the nights in the yams the rest of the way. Since my father was in a hurry, I didn’t tarry at all. I did run into other travelers in the yams, but all were merchants who would not (in my opinion) give me an honest answer about the Khanate. Of the people that ran the yams, the Huaxteca and later on the Otomi would say little at all and never offer an opinion on anything. The Totonaca were very friendly and garrulous but never politically opinionated (at least not in front of me). I couldn’t say how they honestly felt about anything. Once I reached the high plateau and Texcalla, I expected something different, but instead it seemed that Otomi ran most of the yams. There was one exception, however. I had bypassed all the cities of the plateau and arrived at a yam just east of the pass between the two volcanoes that would take me to Anahuac. This yam was about half a day’s ride from Cholula, and I expected to find another Otomi in charge, but instead found a Texcalla. He was of at least middle years (but perhaps prematurely aged), short, wiry, and dark skinned. All I could tell when I first saw him was that he was not Otomi. He had the intense eyes of one not accustomed to keeping his own counsel. He did not disappoint. He greeted me politely but with a knowing smirk. I asked if he was the only yam keeper on the plateau who was not an Otomi.

“What makes you think I am not an Otomi?”
“I’ve known Otomi all my life; you simply don’t look like one.”

“Well, I am not,” he shrugged. “But I am not the only one, there are some Mixteca to the east beyond Cholula. You have come from the north, I take it?”

“Yes, I am returning after several years among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya.”
“You picked a good time to be gone. Are these Ani’ Yun’-wiya one of the tribes of the Blue Sky?” “Yes, they are near the southern terminus of the eastern mountain range of that Khanate.”
“I am not familiar with the geography of the north. Why were you sent there?”
“It is a custom in my family to spend some formative years in the north to prevent becoming jaded.” “And did this exile prevent you from becoming jaded?”
“Only my father could answer that. Where are you from?”
“I am Texcalla, my name is Aztahua. You are the son of John the Healer of Cuauhnahuac.” “Yes, I suppose it is nice to always be recognized.”
“Only if it is for your own merit.”
“Do I detect a little hostility?”

“Why should I be hostile? It isn’t your fault that your grandfather’s efforts reduced my family from rulers to innkeepers. It isn’t your fault that your parents never had to hide in the brush living on leaves and twigs through much of their youth, followed by scrounging around trying to make a living off the rough unyielding soil of a mountainside, watching their parents age decades in years and die a miserable poverty-stricken death unattended and unmourned. It isn’t your fault that I had to work as a slave for the vile Cholula peasant who ran this yam until he mercifully died without issue, leaving me this pesthole. How have I seemed hostile?”

“Could it be that I have finally found someone who would like to see the Khanate overthrown?” “Whatever gave you that idea?”

“I have spoken to some people in the north who felt that it would be best had the Khanate never been established. I also met a band of Huaxteca who are in open revolt against the Khanate. But, even though I inquired, I found no other interest in getting rid of the Khanate until I heard your diatribe.”

“When did I say I wanted to get rid of the Khanate?”
“How else could you be restored to your rightful station in life?”
“Perhaps this is my rightful station in life. That is for the gods to determine and me to accept.”

“I don’t blame you for being careful, but I assure you, I, too, am in favor of overthrowing the yoke of the Mongols.”

“Why?”
“I feel people should be able to decide for themselves how they live without any interference from outsiders.” “Really?”

“Yes. I want each tribe to be able to decide how they want to be ruled, what they want to believe, how they want to relate to their neighbors, what language they want to speak, how they want to regulate merchants, in other words, I want all people to be free.”

“Very noble. How would removing the Khanate accomplish this?”

 

“Well, it is only the first step. Next each tribe would have to agree to leave their neighbors in peace. Then each people could develop their own culture freely and fully.”

“That’s nice. And you think that it’s possible?”
“Of course. It is for the best and anyone can see that.”

“I think it is safe to say that you are perhaps the biggest fool to ever stay at this yam. But I suspect that you are a sincere fool.”

 

“I am sincere, but I’m no fool. I thought that if I helped the overthrow I could secure exile for my family instead of death. But even if I can’t, I have to do what is right.”

“I see,” he studied me intently for a while. “Well, if you really feel that way, then go to market in Tlatelolco and ask for the vendor of cactli (sandals) whose name is Oztooa. When you find him, ask him for amatl anecuyotl (paper of destiny). He will tell you where to go. If he hesitates, tell him Xococ Yolotl sent you. You and I will speak no more of this.”

I was excited to think that I was now part of a conspiracy. I had trouble sleeping that night, but finally drifted off thinking of the new age of freedom that soon would dawn for the entire world. True to his word, Aztahua said no more to me about revolution, but became as taciturn as any Otomi. I eagerly mounted up after a light breakfast and was soon on my way up the pass. Even though it was now mid spring, it was rather cold when I got above the tree line. There was actually snow on the ground, although it was not deep. I had to fight a bitter wind near the summit of the pass and was quite relieved to reach the tree line on the far side by midafternoon. I spent the night in a yam near Amecameca, run as usual by an Otomi. The merchant road was not a direct route to Cuauhnahuac. It first went northwest to the cities along the southern shore of Lake Texcoco. Near Chalco, one branch heads north to the cities along the eastern shore of the lake, near Tulyehualco; there was a branch that crossed a causeway over the lake and led to Culhuacan, Iztapalapa and Tenochtitlan; then, near Tlapan, it branched north along the western shore of the lake and south into the mountains toward Cuauhnahuac. I took the branch that led south. I reached the town called Coaxomulco near dusk and decided to spend the night rather than try the last several li in the dark.

Early the next morning, I set out on the winding trail through the mountains. It was quite pleasant and warm and the air was clear with a hint of pine. I passed some people who greeted me warmly and welcomed me home. I didn’t recognize them, but I assumed they didn’t really know me, just my father. Even though it had served me well, I was beginning to resent being recognized all over the Khanates as his son. Near midday I turned off the merchant road to the road that led to my house. Finally, I entered the compound and rode up to the house. Everything seemed smaller than I remembered it. A young servant, whom I didn’t recognize, ran up to take away the horses. I got my pack off one of the horses and carried it into the house. Suddenly I heard an unmistakable shriek of greeting from Cuauhtzin, followed by a stream of obscenities in Otomi and the hearty laughter of Tetl. Tetl ran in to greet me.

“It had to be you,” he laughed. “You must come and salute your little friend. He is in your old room.” “Father let him back in the house?”
“No, your father had to go to Tepoztlan. He should be back soon. I’ll send word that you have come at last.”

“Don’t. He’ll probably send for me to help with the sick.” I picked up Cuauhtzin and hugged him gently. He couldn’t stand still, but had to hop up on my head, then on my shoulder, then on Tetl’s arm, then back to me, all the while making little peeping noises, occasionally punctuated with an earsplitting shriek and a stream of Otomi.

“No, there is only one sick man. He won’t require your help.”
“I heard I was holding up another of his great journeys.”

“Ah my little Crow, you have not only grown tall and handsome, but bitter also. Did you not enjoy your relatives in the north?”

“Of course, I did. I had a wonderful time. It is just that I am everywhere recognized as his son, everyone seems to hold him in veneration, and yet he urges me to hurry back so he can be done with me and go on about his business. I feel the ‘great man’ is a poor parent.”

“I see. Well since my father was not famous or even infamous, I have not suffered your notoriety. We Otomi tend to be easily ignored.”

 

“Why is that, Tetl? Why don’t the Otomi revolt and drive all the interlopers out of their plateau?” “We are not natural fighters. We are farmers and farmers are usually conquered by warriors. So it is, but in the end, we continue to farm, so in a way, we win.”

 

“Do you think the Otomi would be better off without the Khanate?” Cuauhtzin finally settled down on my arm and I helped him preen.

“No.”
“But why?”
“We are treated well and with respect by the Mongols. It was never thus before.”
“But what if you could rule yourselves again?”
“In this valley, you either rule or you are ruled. We do not wish to rule others, so they will rule us.” “But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
“The earth doesn’t have to shake, but it does.”

I dropped the subject, but I resolved to speak for Otomi rights in the revolutionary movement, and felt quite pleased with myself. Tetl and I talked over what had happened while we were apart. My father had spent very little time at home while I was away and had been traveling extensively in the west and north, very rugged land. It seemed he was planning to go to the southeast once I was settled. My sister Sarah and her husband were now living in Chalco. Ignace was on campaign in the Khanate of the Clouds and Theodore was on a journey to the south. He was expected back in a few weeks. Sarah and Tepeyolotl would be coming by for a visit any day now. Cuauhtzin would not let me put him down, so I carried him about the compound while Tetl showed me the changes in my absence and introduced me to the newer servants. We seemed to have fewer horses, but more land in cultivation. There were no crops, of course, just a plethora of plants with some sort of medicinal value. Tetl offered to identify them for me, but I really wasn’t interested. We seemed to have acquired a larger flock of the large bird called huehxolotl in Nahual and had two odd-looking animals about the size of a large dog. Tetl said they were goats. I remembered Grandfather mentioning them in his book, but had never seen one before. While we were eating our evening meal, word came from my father that he would be home the next day. When I retired for the night everything felt so strange, but I loved hearing Cuauhtzin little contented noises, and finally drifted off to sleep.

8

Tlatelolco, 91 K
(Mexico City, 1459)

I awakened fairly early and cleaned up after Cuauhtzin. I had forgotten what a job that was. Then I wheeled his stand to “our” little house away from main house. He had no intention of leaving my shoulder, of course, but I tried. I walked around the compound drinking in all the barely familiar sights. Eventually, I walked over to the kitchen house and shared a couple of tlaxcalli and a piece of fruit with Cuauhtzin. Tetl came in and told me that my father had already come and was in his workroom. He prudently took Cuauhtzin. I wandered over to my father’s workroom. When I was a child, I used to enjoy all the strange smells of his various herbs, but I had always been afraid to step into the room unless he was there. I remember thinking there had been too much fear in our relationship and that was now ended.

The door was ajar and a rather pungent waft greeted me as I entered. My father had his back to me and was bent over a metate, grinding some sort of dried plant to a powder. As I approached, I noticed that he was definitely shorter than I, and that gave me no little satisfaction. I also noticed that, as usual, he was so engrossed in his work that he didn’t notice me. Rolling my eyes, I went over to the lone chair in the room and sat down, waiting to see how long it would take him to notice me.

“It would have been more polite of you to greet me before sitting down,” he said, his back still to me. “I didn’t want to interrupt,” I stammered.

“You mean you thought I was so wrapped up in my work I didn’t notice you come in and you thought you’d wait and see how long it took me to notice you.”

“Exactly.” I was embarrassed, but decided to meet him head on.
“Good,” he turned toward me. “Communication is greatly facilitated by honesty. Stand up. Let me look at you.” “I’ve grown,” I announced proudly as I rose and lowered my gaze to meet his.

“Yes, I can see that. I thought you’d end up tall like your mother’s family. I suspect that held you in good stead with our Ani’ Yun’-wiya cousins. Did you learn the ‘little war’ while you were there?”

“Yes, but I left before I could play a real game.”
“Good, you would probably have been half killed.”
“I don’t know, I think I’m rather good.”

“Well, in that case you would have been killed outright. The arrogant ones are always the first to fall. I received reports on your progress and am quite satisfied with all I heard. I understand you had a good experience on your vision quest. Don’t forget about it, it will guide you and help you throughout your life if you let it. Now, what took you so long getting here?”

“I wanted to look around a little on my way back. Your letter did not suggest there was any urgency.” “Yes, that was an oversight. So, tell me, what do you want to do with yourself? Have you and your guide decided on any particular career?”

 

“I think I should join an Ordu and go on campaign.”

“You’re not too young for that; in fact, you might be considered a bit old. Most of the boys go when they’re sixteen. Are you sure you want to do that? I don’t remember you showing particular prowess with any weapons, except perhaps the bow. Iskagua mentioned you had been most attentive of some older warriors. Did they inspire you to go on campaign?”

“Partly, although most of them would not talk about it. I have managed to piece together a good idea of the campaigns in the southern Khanates by asking questions.”

 

“The campaigns interest you? Do you want to write a history of them like your grandfather wrote of his campaigns?”

“Perhaps. But mostly I want to understand them myself. I want to picture them clearly in my mind.” “I’m afraid you would have to be on the commander’s staff to get any clear picture of a campaign. Soldiers in the ranks rarely have any idea what is going on around them. To that end, I won’t be able to help you. I have no influence in the Khanate of the Clouds since that creature George took over. I’m afraid if you go on campaign, you will have to work your way up through the ranks.”

“I’m prepared to do that. I can work on my weapon skills for a year and then volunteer to go on campaign.”

“Very well,” he sighed heavily. “At least I can help you a little. The former head of the Khan’s Guard is named Acolmiztli. He now spends his time training local youth, so they will have enough weapon skills to join an Ordu. The Khan has given him use of an old calmecac just north of the palace. He is originally from Texcoco and a good dependable man. I’ll take you to meet him in a few days and he will see to it that you have the skills you need to survive on campaign, if you are sure that is what you want to do.”

“You disapprove of my decision?”

“Disapprove, no, but I would have wished you another choice. I have been on campaigns and I understand those who do not wish to speak of it. War is an ugly business: the loser is dead and the victor is scarred for life. Still, we all must follow our destiny wherever it takes us. I hope this path you choose serves you well.”

“I never knew you went on campaign.”

 

“I never spoke of it in your presence. It was before you were born. I was with your uncle Theodore during the time of the Zhen plague. After it abated, I went along on campaign to help with the sick.”

“That must have been after you helped Cocatli.”
“Who?”

“Cocatli. He was a merchant who took me from the Snake Ordu to the Panther Ordu to visit Mathilde. You saved him from a fever and he gave you one of the quetzalitzli stones.”

“I don’t remember that one. Was there anything special about the fever?”
“He just said that it was strange and you saved his life.”
“Well it was kind of him to remember me.”
“If you saved his life, how could he forget you?”

“Gratitude is a rare thing, Karl, never look for it. Do things because you want to, not because they will earn you gratitude.”

 

“Not so rare, the Xinesi of the Kadohadacho also is in your debt and sent a piece of teoxihuitl for you. I also bring you greetings from a Huaxteca bandit who calls himself, Balam.”

He remembered neither encounter, and again cautioned me about expecting gratitude. He was appalled at the size of the teoxihuitl the Xinesi had sent, but decided he would sell it so that he could contribute to my upkeep at the calmecac and make it easier for his friend Acolmiztli to help me. He urged me to rest up from my journey and let him finish up his medicines. We would go to Tlatelolco in a few days. I left pleased that I would be able to take part in the revolution from within reach of the palace. I was so caught up in my plans, I forgot all about rereading my grandfather’s books and looking for the one I had missed.

In the late afternoon, my sister Sarah and her husband Tepeyolotl arrived with their five children. The eldest daughter, Teypachtli, was about eleven years old at that time, next was another daughter, Chipilotl who was nine years old, then the three boys, Icpitl, Iztacyochitl, and John who were six, three, and a year old, respectively. They were wonderful children, full of fun, just like their parents. Sarah and Tepeyolotl made a big fuss over how big and handsome I had become; then they regaled me with all their travel tales and brought me up to date on all the children. They also plied me with innumerable questions about my time with the Ani’ Yun’-wiya and Sarah asked after everyone she had met while she lived there. The older children and I rode all over the surrounding hills and had a grand time of it. They stayed a few days but finally had to return to Chalco to meet an expected shipment. They promised to look me up in Tlatelolco and urged me to drop in on them in Chalco.

I hated to see them go, but my father decided he had made enough medicines and it was time to go anyway. We set out early the next morning. He thought it best that I leave Cuauhtzin behind because of his noise. Tetl had to tie him to his perch to keep him from flying after me and he shrieked pitifully as I rode away.

It was hard to engage my father in conversation, as he was usually lost in thought. I tried to ask him about his travels only to get one-word answers. Eventually I gave up and we rode in silence. We stopped at a yam just south of Tlapan a little after dark. There was quite a mix of people there. Most were merchants, but there were a few soldiers and some ordinary travelers. Father spoke only a few words to the keeper, an ancient Otomi, then retired for the night after our meal. He recommended that I not tarry either, since we would be leaving early the next morning.

I sat at the table for a while and listened in on some of the conversations around me. The loudest talkers were the merchants, all of whom seemed to have gotten the best deal on the finest goods from the farthest reaches of the world after the greatest effort on their part. The soldiers said little and eyed everyone suspiciously. The travelers spoke quietly to each other, the men discussing the weather or the crops or their skills and the women discussing their children or grandchildren. I decided there was nothing to learn here and went to bed.

We rose quite early, before daylight, and set out after a very light meal. As the sky lightened, we rode north along the already-crowded road. We reached the causeway to Tenochtitlan before the sun rose above the mountains in the east. Tenochtitlan looked otherworldly. A mist covered the water under the causeway, making it look as though we were crossing the clouds to reach a city in the sky. The houses and temples of the city were shades of gray in this light, and above the city were hundreds of still-dull feather banners floating gently in the light breezes. Then the sun rose above the mountains and suddenly the city was bathed in sunlight, which it reflected back with blinding intensity. The floating banners erupted in brilliant colors as the sunlight touched them. Above it all, the painted temples rose crowning the city. It was a remarkable sight. Then the mist burned off the water and soon the lake was filled with innumerable boats moving in all directions laden with goods and people.

There were guard posts on the causeway, but I was so mesmerized by the city, I barely noticed them. They all knew my father and simply waved us through. When we reached the city, we stayed on the street that became the causeway. The houses along it were of dressed stone and painted white. There were ruder houses of mud and thatch barely visible along side streets and the numerous canals. There were also many of the chinampa gardens at the southern and western edges of the island city. The street took us right to the central temple square. It had changed over the years since Grandfather had described it. A high, merlon-topped wall decorated along the base with sculpted stone feathered serpents surrounded the whole. The temples had to be rebuilt periodically because of settling and earthquakes. They were always made larger and occasionally a new one was added. My father’s lack of interest precluded asking him about the various temples, but I found out later.

As one entered the square from the south (the Eagle Gate), the temple of the god Texcatlipoca was on the right, the temples of the goddesses Xochiquetzalli (patroness of painters and weavers) and Chicomocoatl (goddess of vegetation) were on the left, and beyond them in the southwest corner of the plaza was the temple of Tonatiuh, the sun god. Next on the right was housing for the priests, and on the left an open space where there had originally been the skull rack for the severed heads of sacrificial victims. Next, at the center of the square, were, on the left, the twin temples of the gods Tlaloc (painted blue) and Huitzilopochtli (painted red) atop the tallest pyramid and, on the right, the blue truncated pyramid of the god Tengri with the simple stone slab (also painted blue) on which incense constantly burned. The former had large stone braziers and serpent heads at the corners. Behind the temple of Tengri was the ceremonial ball court. Farther along there were more priest housing on the left and the temple of Quetzalcoatl on the right. The latter was a round structure with a conical thatch roof on top of an elevated platform. The entrance to the temple was carved in the shape of a snake’s mouth. Finally there was on the left, the Temple of the Knights (dedicated to the Eagle and Ocelotl warrior orders which had been revived about ten years before) and on the right, the temple of Cihuacoatl (goddess of the Xochimilco tribe). The northwest corner of the plaza contained the calmecac of the priests and Tenocha nobility, and in front (south) of it the two small groves called the Tentlalpan and the Tozpalatl. The former grove was used in an annual hunt ceremony; the latter contained the spring that was at the site of the first temple.

We left the plaza passing through a double row of eight columns leading to the northern gate and turned left along the serpent wall, then turning right at the northwest corner of the temple plaza on to the road leading to Tlatelolco. The Tenochtitlan market, west of the Temple precinct, was visible and clearly bustling. The road to Tlatelolco was broader than the others. It led us to another causeway crossing the short distance to the other island.

As we approached the northern island, two tall warriors, who clearly had to be from the north, manned the guard post. I thought they might be Leni lenape, but my father assured me they were Ocheti shakowin. There was a different feeling on the northern island. There was a business air to the place. Goods of all description were being hauled in all directions by boat and by cart. People had serious expressions on their faces as they hurried to and fro. In Tenochtitlan there was more of a swagger in people’s step, and no one seemed to be in a hurry. There was significant commerce in progress but no sense of urgency like in Tlatelolco. It was odd since the people looked the same and were so near each other geographically.

The road led us to the Tlatelolco market, a virtual hive of activity. I thought I would have a hard time finding the sandal merchant, but then I noticed that all like merchandise was in one place. My father went straight to the teoxihuitl merchants to sell his present from the Xinesi. The merchant he picked did not bargain at all, but immediately paid him a rather generous amount (yes, he had also been cured by my father). The payment was in the form of feathers, gold dust and chocolatl beans. We left the market and came upon the temple complex. The Tlatelolco main temple was also a twin shrine atop a tall pyramid, but they venerated Texcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli. I noticed the complex was smaller and was falling into some disrepair. Only the principle temple was in good condition, the others were not, and a few appeared to have been at least partially dismantled for their stones.

The palace of the Khan faced the temple complex across a small plaza. The palace was quite large and elegant and consisted of a single square building raised on a platform some ten feet above the level of the street. We did not go into the palace, but went around to its north side to a complex of buildings surrounding a large open area where there were a number of young men practicing their weapon skills with wooden swords and oli-tipped spears and arrows. My father guided me to one of the buildings on the far side of the open space. There on a platform at the top of the steps leading into the building was a man of medium stature absorbed in the efforts of the neophyte warriors. He was an older man, but seemed to be in excellent shape and powerfully built. At the moment he was scowling menacingly at the scene before him, but my father did not hesitate to interrupt him.

“May I have a word with you, Acolmiztli?”

 

“What?” he turned angrily, then, recognizing my father, broke into a big, incongruously toothy smile. “You may have as many words as you need, my healer.”

“This is my son, Karl, also called Cacalotl,” he indicated me. “His fate leads him to wish to join an Ordu and take part in the endless southern campaigns. He has just returned from several years among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya and I’d like you to help him acquire enough martial skills to at least have a chance of returning in one piece.”

“How old are you boy?” he looked me over appraisingly.
“Eighteen, sir,” I replied.

“You’re a little old. I hope you don’t have too many bad habits yet. It is easier to train them younger before they’ve had the time to ruin themselves. You are tall, that could help or hurt, gives you more reach but makes you a bigger target. Still, if you listen and obey, you will be a good warrior. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yes, sir.”
“I will do all I can for your boy, my healer.” He turned back to my father. “I know he will make you proud.” “Thank you, my friend. I knew I could count on you.”

My father gave him all the proceeds from the sale of the teoxihuitl, asking him to dole it out for me, as I needed it. He protested that it would be too much and my father told him to use whatever was left over anyway he saw fit. He was somewhat uncomfortable about such a largess, but then asked if he could use it to help some less fortunate friends, and my father assured him he was free to use it any way he wished. He just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be a burden on him. He then took him aside for a few words out of my earshot. I suspect he was telling him not to be easy on me. Then he returned to me for some parting advice.

“Pay close attention to Acolmiztli, he is a great warrior and has survived many campaigns. Otherwise, try to stay out of trouble. Be careful of the Tenocha. They are full of shortsighted intrigues. Do not think yourself superior to your fellows, but work with them. Cooperation and friendship will serve you well on campaign; in fact, it will save your life. Finally, avoid at all costs the women who sell their favors. Many of them carry a dreadful disease that I have been unable to cure. It is readily transferred to their clients and I have been unable to cure them either. Save your manhood for true love, you will never regret it.”

He said the last with such conviction and intensity that I knew he spoke truly. I also knew he spoke of his first wife, not my mother. Still, I did not fault him for that since one true love in a lifetime was the most one could hope for. As to the prostitutes, he needed not fear, I had no interest in them. I found their lascivious posturing repulsive and their red-stained teeth nauseating. I suppose this was because among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya the women were always modest, gracious, kind, and dignified. They carried themselves with an air that demanded respect and even veneration. There was nothing like a wanton woman in Itsati, so when I first saw one at the Snake Ordu, I found her repulsive and so have I found all such ever since. I suppose this is rather unfair of me, but I have discovered that people are indelibly marked by their tribe’s ways and only eschew such propensities with great difficulty.

I assured my father I would behave and wished him a good journey. He wished me luck with my training and promised to look in on me on his return within the year. He turned to go and I turned to Acolmiztli. He looked at me steadily for a moment, then abruptly turned and beckoned me to follow him. He led me into a large open room empty except for two rows of rolled-up pallets against the wall with small bundles of carefully folded clothes next to them. We went through the room to a smaller room beyond it. It was filled with fake weapons like those with which the young men outside were practicing. We left this room and crossed a small open space and entered another building. He bid me wait and went into his own room to deposit my father’s largess. Then he returned to me.

“Well, young man, your father tells me you are called ‘Cacalotl’ by many. Does that name meet with your approval?”

 

“Yes, sir”—I shrugged—“one could have received worse names.”

“Indeed, crows are very smart birds. They work together and quickly see through all the stratagems used against them. Yet, they uproot and eat freshly planted centli instead of waiting for it to mature and give them a full meal.”

“It is only a name, sir. I do not make any effort to emulate the bird. My dream guide is not a crow.”

“Well, Cacalotl, that large room we just went through is your sleeping quarters for the next year, unless we are on maneuvers. Your clothes are not too fine, but they are not suitable. Go to the market and get more practical attire, like that of the others, then return here and turn in your clothes. I will store them until your time with us has ended. Here are a few chocolatl beans. They should cover all you need. Don’t tarry, come straight back.”

I bowed respectfully and turned back, retracing our path to the large room. Examining one of the folded bundles, I saw that they only contained one change of clothes and an extra pair of sandals. The clothes were cotton, but of a sturdy weave rather than of a comfortable weave. The sandals were of the more rugged variety. I carefully refolded the bundle and looked at the pallet. It was rough but durable. I went out glancing over my new companions on my way to the market. They were a mixed lot, but all were from the surrounding cities and valleys. I hurried to the market and quickly purchased what I needed. I had to do some haggling since the merchants were quite willing to take advantage of my youth. I purchased the sandals from Oztooa, but made no attempt to contact him. I returned to the large room, found a bare spot against a wall, set down my pallet, then carefully folded my change of clothes and placed them next to it. Then I changed into the new clothes and folding up the things I had been wearing. I returned to Acolmiztli.

I found him waiting in the open space in front of his room. I held out my clothes and the remaining chocolatl beans. He grinned and returned the beans to me, congratulating me on not being robbed by the merchants. He put my clothes bundle away, then led the way to the practice field. He wanted to see what I could do. First we went to the spears. He was not interested in whether or how far I could throw them; he wanted to see if I could use one in hand-to-hand fighting. He picked up one of the oli-tipped spears and bid me pick up another. I picked one up and tested it. It was just like a spear except for the tip. One of the old Ani’ Yun’-wiya warriors had shown me how to use the spear this way, so I was ready and parried his blunt thrust. He smiled wickedly, and thrust again. This time my parry threw me a little off balance but not so much that I couldn’t hold on to my spear when he slammed my ribs with the butt end of his spear. He thrust again and I jumped aside and thrust at him. He stood his ground, spun his spear, and sent mine flying into the air above me.

He set down his spear and led me to the bows. They were the simple bows rather than the compound ones. I tested one and found it well made. I took up one of the arrows and shot it at the straw target set up at some distance. I hit it right in the middle of the target mark. Then one of the others picked up one of the targets and began to run toward me using evasive movement. I drew another arrow and again hit the target.

Without a word we moved to the swords. They were expertly made of a very hard wood, but were blunt with no edge or point. We each picked one up and began to duel. My strength alone kept the contest going as long as it did. More than once the sword should have gone flying out of my hand, but I was able to hold on to it. I managed to get in a few glancing blows on him, but he finally wore me down and disarmed me. He set down his sword and bid me follow him. We went back to the platform where he was when I first saw him.

“You are a credit to those who taught you Cacalotl. You are better than most that come here. Now let’s just see how advanced you are. Look at the neophytes and tell me what you see that any of them are doing wrong.”

I was puzzled by this task, but I started looking around and saw a few obvious beginners banging away at each other with their swords making no attempt to score any telling blows. I saw another one who always dropped his shield before he delivered a blow. Another one attacked with reckless abandon. I pointed these out to him.

“Good, you have a decent eye. But look closer do you see anything wrong over there?”

I looked where he indicated. Two of the men were engaged in an epic struggle with their swords. They seemed very evenly matched. One was stronger but not very skillful; the other was skillful but not very strong. Then I noticed that the stronger one seemed to be holding back a little rather than being less skillful. I looked carefully at the two combatants and noticed that they bore a familial resemblance. I told Acolmiztli what I saw.

“Yes, they are brothers. You are right about the stronger one; he makes the other look better than he is. I am well pleased with you, Cacalotl. I think you are good enough to help with instruction. But first you will have to prove yourself to the others. Work on your spear fighting the rest of the day.”

I went over and began to duel the others who were working with the spears. I did quite well against them, but learned a little from each contest and by the end of the day felt ready to take on one of the instructors. He looked at me and smiled. I was disarmed in a few minutes. He graciously suggested I was probably tired and would do better in the morning. I spent the evening reviewing the duel in my mind and figuring out how he disarmed me. We cleaned up in the steam house and, after an ample and nourishing evening meal, retired.

The next morning after a modest meal, I returned to the spears and again challenged the instructor. I had figured out how he disarmed me and was not going to let him do it again. In fact, I had thought up a way to use his ploy against him. As I suspected, he tried the same move again and I tried my counter. He was surprised, but not disarmed, instead we struggled mightily for some time before I got in a lucky blow, which cost him his footing and his fall disarmed him. He jumped up and clapped me on the back.

“Excellent work, my friend. I am Chiquatli from Tlacopan. Who are you?”

 

“I am Cacalotl from Cuauhnahuac.”

 

“A crow has beaten an owl. Tell me, how did you figure out my ploy so quickly? It usually takes the recruits weeks to defeat it.”

I explained that I had a good memory for detail and just went over the duel in my mind until I saw what he had done. I showed him my counter and he showed me some other moves. We spent the rest of the day working on new moves and countering strategies. The recruits watched us in awe. Toward the end of the day, Acolmiztli came over and took us both on at the same time. After a very long struggle, he disarmed us both. But he was well satisfied with our efforts and worked with both of us until dark. He told me to continue working on the spear and instructing the recruits for a few more days.

At the end of a few days, I was able to battle Acolmiztli to a draw with the spear and defeat all others. He bid me go work on swords. I applied myself diligently to the sword, but it was not my best weapon. I could defeat most of the recruits, but only after a struggle. I made very little headway with the instructor, Tlilcuetzpalin of Culhuacan. After many days I was able to more easily defeat the other recruits, but would still lose to Tlilcuetzpalin although after a longer struggle. He tried to show me what I was doing wrong, and I could see it well enough, but could only gradually adjust. He told me that most warriors have trouble with one weapon. He confided that he was only marginal with the bow.

After the better part of a month, I was made an instructor and moved to a smaller although equally spare room with the other instructors. We were allowed a cloak, so I had reason to return to the market at last. I decided the time was ripe to contact the rebels. I quickly purchased the cloak and went looking for Oztooa. He was not hard to find. His stall was still in the same place. I absently looked over some goods at another stall while watching him. He seemed to have not a care in the world but to sell his sandals. I began to wonder if perhaps Aztahua had misled me. Finally, I approached the man.

“Do you need a fine new pair of sandals, young warrior?”
“Actually, I am looking for the paper of destiny.”
“A strange quarry to hunt among the sandal merchants.” He visibly paled and nervously looked around. “Xococ Yolotl was sure you could help me.”

“Ah, of course,” his relief was palpable. “Our mutual friend is a bold recruiter. Go to the house with the green door near the causeway to Tenochtitlan at midday on the second day of the Founding Festival. Good luck, young warrior.”

I left him immediately and returned to the training ground. There had been festivals in at least every one of the twenty-day months of the old calendar. Under the Khanate, that had been changed. Since most of the old festivals included human sacrifices, it was thought best to abolish them all. Now there were only four festivals. The first was the New Year Festival at the winter solstice. The second was the Khakhanate Festival in mid spring honoring the proclaiming to the Khanate of the Blue Sky by Kaidu. The third was the Founding Festival in midsummer honoring the founding of the Khanate of Anahuac. And the last was the Harvest Festival in the fall. All of the festivals went on for five days, and everyone who wished was free to take part in the celebrations. We recruits would be off for those days. The Founding Festival would begin in a few weeks. I could hardly wait.

Not long after my encounter with Oztooa, all the recruits were formed up and marched north across the causeway to Tepeyac and continued north to the site of Azcapotzalco. It had been cleared and turned into a great training ground. Here we trained for two weeks with the throwing spear and the bow. I was quite good with both. We also practiced with the bow from horseback. I quickly mastered that also and began to feel quite sure of myself. The recruits had a particularly hard time with it, however, and I and the other instructors had our work cut out for us. We returned to Tlatelolco the day before the festival began.

9
Tlatelolco, 91 K
(Mexico City, 1459)

When we got back to our barracks, Acolmiztli called the instructors together. He urged us to keep an eye out for the recruits during the upcoming festival. We could order any of them confined to quarters should they engage in any drunken or lewd behavior. At the same time, he expected us to set an example for the others and would hold us accountable for all breaches of discipline and good order. After that he cackled and bid us enjoy the festival. He took me aside after dismissing the others and praised me for all my progress. He gave me a handful of the chocolatl beans to help me enjoy the festival. I thanked him and returned to my room. Chiquatli and Tlilcuetzpalin each urged me to join them on a visit to their families, but I was suffused with a greater mission, and did not want to leave the city.

The first day of the festival, I was surprised by the arrival of my sister Sarah and her family. They had come to visit the city during the festival and wanted me to join them. I was a little nonplused by this development, but managed to cover my surprise and feign enthusiasm. I was genuinely glad to see them, but I didn’t want anything to interfere with my joining the revolution. We spent the day taking part in the dancing, watching the various entertainments, and feasting excessively. They prevailed on me to join them at the house of a relative of Tepeyolotl on the western end of Tlatelolco near the causeway to Tlacopan. His name was Miahuaxihuitl and his wife’s name was Papan. Both were originally from Chalco like Tepeyolotl. Miahuaxihuitl was a merchant also, but no longer traveled much since he was of advanced years. They had never had any children and were always delighted to have visitors.

Miahuaxihuitl was a keen observer of people and regaled us with many stories of his experiences as a traveling merchant as well as his encounters with various notables in the capital. He gave us very insightful descriptions of all the Khans he had met. He revered my grandfather whom he considered the greatest ruler he had ever known. George, he felt was basically a good ruler, but his wife and her greedy relatives too easily manipulated him. John was a strong ruler and did much good including the removal from power of his mother’s relatives (whom he despised). However, he was vain and arrogant. He was the one who built the huge palace. The current Khan, Henry, on the other hand, was a gentle, kind, generous, and thoughtful man. He had no guile much like his mother, a sister of the Tlatoani of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl. Unfortunately, he was much too trusting and patient and he is widely viewed as weak. His sons are not at all like him. The eldest, George, was as secretive as his father was open. He would be quite a change should he succeed Henry. The younger son, Theodore, was my age, and seemed to have the makings of quite a warrior, but no interest in palace intrigue. He would be going on campaign next year much as I planned to do. George had already returned from campaign and was reported to have gotten along famously with his cousin George, the Khan of Clouds. I had a feeling my father would not much like him.

The Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan were also a mixed bag. Chimalpopoca, the first he had known, was considered weak, much too dependent on the Khan. He seemed overwhelmed by the job and there was a rumor that his own kin had poisoned him. Itzcoatl was a son of Acamapichtli, the first ruler of the Tenocha, by a slave girl. He was a fierce warrior covering himself with glory in many campaigns. He had fought with the Mexica contingent in Grandfather’s campaigns and had also served under Juchi and George. Not long before his accession, he returned from the southern campaigns where he had served in both the east and west. He had been with Kaidu when the latter was named the first Khan of the Green Mist. He proved to be a very strong leader and the Tenocha had begun to assert themselves during his reign. His nephew the current Tlatoani, Mocteuzoma, succeeded him. The latter and his half brother, Tlacaelel, had both distinguished themselves during the earlier southern campaigns. Both returned to the south several times and served in campaigns in both Khanates. As Tlatoani, Mocteuzoma had been quite the builder and was responsible for much of the current splendor of the Temple Precinct as well as a new palace and the general spate of stone housing which gave Tenochtitlan its splendid aspect, making it the envy of much of Anahuac. He seemed to rely heavily on Tlacaelel and the two have recently been much given to secret meetings and intrigues. No one knew what they were plotting. He felt Tlacaelel was the one who needed to be watched.

The Tlatoani of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl, was greatly respected by all who knew him. He was a capable engineer who designed and built the new improved aqueduct from Chapultepec to Tenochtitlan at Mocteuzoma’s request. He was also a gifted poet, if one liked Nahual poetry. Further, he was a very honest, straightforward ruler, much beloved by his people. I mentioned his gift of Cuauhtzin to me and Miahuaxihuitl was not surprised, since he was also known to be quite generous. He had heard good things of his predecessor, Ixtlilxochitl, but had never actually met the man. I found myself wondering if Nezahualcoyotl would want to join the revolution. Of course, I realized whether or not he did, it would not be my place to invite him. I wondered if Mocteuzoma and his brother would prove to be a part of the revolution. Miahuaxihuitl had never met any of the Khans in the south or the Khakhans in the north.

The next day we again participated in the morning festivities; then, while the others went to the market, I claimed the need to run an errand for a while but promised to join them in the market as soon as possible. I could barely contain my excitement as I hurried down the road toward Tenochtitlan. As promised, there was only one house with a green door near the causeway. As I approached, I could see a man lurking around on the roof and Oztooa leaning against the doorway. He smiled conspiratorially as I reached him and opened the door without a word. Inside there were about thirty men ranging in age from fifteen to about sixty milling around in a large room. I didn’t recognize any of them, but it looked as though they were all Tenocha from their swagger. Their reaction to me was quite varied. Some clearly were hostile, some were glad to see me, and some were indifferent, as though I was of no consequence. It was the younger ones who welcomed me.

In due course, Oztooa joined us and called us to order. He thanked us all for coming and said that we were fortunate to have a special guest. He opened the door to a side room and an older (perhaps sixty years old), dark, brooding man with cold, penetrating eyes entered the room. There was a gasp of recognition from many of the assembly as he began to address us. He had a rather resonant voice but was deliberately restraining it so it would not carry beyond the room. He said he could tell some of us knew him, but from now on we would refer to him only by the name Ehecoatl (the Nahual word for whirlwind). He knew each of us by name and might call upon us to perform certain tasks at any time. We were one of many revolutionary cells throughout Anahuac. We should discreetly recruit like-minded patriots from among all the people of the plateau. If possible, we should not hesitate to approach visitors from the far reaches of the Khanates. The more widespread our cadre of revolutionaries, the greater were our chances of success. Our group would meet here at noon on the second day of each festival. If we should see a red banner flying over the house that day, it would mean the meeting was canceled and we would be contacted later. It was unlikely that he would address us again at one of our meetings, but he wanted us to know him by sight should he ever have to call on us for a special service. Otherwise, Oztooa, the owner of the house, was the leader of this cell, and his orders must be obeyed without question and without hesitation. We must know that once in the revolution there was no way out except death or success. He wanted to talk briefly to each of us alone. He returned to the small room and we all formed a line and waited our turn. Meanwhile Oztooa served a small snack.

In due course I entered the room. Ehecoatl was sitting on a chair on a raised platform. It was intended to be high enough that he could still look down on us as we stood before him. As it happened, I was too tall for the ploy and he had to raise his gaze to meet mine. This clearly bothered him and he told me to sit down. Once he had his desired vantage, he began to stare at me with his cold, hard eyes. Among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya it was considered bad manners to stare at a person, but among the Mexica it was considered a weakness to avert your eyes from such a stare. I steadily met his gaze in silence for a while; then he smiled without warmth.

“Do you recognize me?”
“I do not, sir.”
“Good. I was puzzled to hear that a member of the Khan’s family had joined us. What is your motivation?” “I want the Khanate dissolved so that the various tribes can rule themselves as they wish.”
“Really?”
“Yes, I believe all people should be free to choose their own rulers and to develop their own culture.” “Interesting. Where did you acquire such noble sentiments?”

“I lived with the Ani’ Yun’-wiya for several years. A great warrior named Oganaya suggested to me that the Khanate had been bad for the people, interfering with the will of his god and forcing the warriors to fight far from their homes against an enemy who has done them no wrong.”
“I remember Oganaya. He was a brave and smart warrior. I had no idea he harbored such thoughts. Is he still alive?”

“No, he died a few years ago.”
“Should our revolution succeed, what would you have us do with your relatives?”
“I thought perhaps exile in the south.”
“What would prevent them from gathering an army and trying to retake power?”

“I suppose that is possible, but I would think the other Khanates would be too busy fighting revolts of their own to help put down a revolt in Anahuac.”

 

“Did you find widespread unrest in the north?”

 

“No, but there was some and I think once the idea of self-determination got abroad, there would be widespread revolt.”

“That remains to be seen. What do you expect from the revolution?”
“Just the satisfaction that I had taken part in overthrowing a tyranny.”
“What if we found it necessary to ‘exile’ you as well as your relatives? Would you still join us?” “Yes. I don’t expect anything but satisfaction from this struggle.”

“Interesting. One only hears such selfless enthusiasm from the young. But it can be most useful. It would be best if you do not do any recruiting. You would best serve our cause if you could ingratiate yourself with your relatives in the palace and let us know if there is any indication that they suspect our activity. You can always report to Oztooa in the market. Do not come here for any more meetings and should you ever see me again give no indication you have ever met me and make no attempt to speak to me. Instead see Oztooa in the market every few weeks and inform him of your progress. You will be an integral part of our revolution. We will be counting heavily on you. Do you understand your mission?”

“Yes, sir. I do.”
“Good. Your code name will be Oganaya. Anyone who addresses you so comes from me.” “I will remember.”

He dismissed me with a wave. It was so strange that there was no warmth at all in the man. He seemed to be devoid of feeling. It made me wonder what sort of a life he had led, but as a loyal revolutionary, I wouldn’t dream of questioning anyone about him. I bowed slightly in taking leave and left the room. I sought out Oztooa and thanked him for accepting me and giving me a chance to take part in our great revolution. I explained that Ehecoatl thought it best if I report to him directly in the market rather than come to the meetings, so I should probably leave at once. He agreed and graciously walked me to the door. I hurried back up the street to the market barely able to contain my excitement over my special mission.

With some effort I found my relatives and took great pains to act as though nothing had happened. I enthusiastically participated in the rest of the festival. On the evening of the fourth day of the festival, I asked Sarah if she had ever been in the palace. She said she had gone there with our father once as a young girl, but had never been there since. I asked if she had seen the feather headdress and cloak of our grandfather that was on display there. She had not and asked where I had heard of it. I told her about my visit to Panuco and my stay with Yquingare. It turned out that she and Tepeyolotl had met Yquingare some years before when their travels took them to Panuco, but she had not mentioned her relationship with the Raven. She was glad I had seen the representation of Grandfather, for she had been quite impressed by it. I asked if she thought it would be possible for us to see the cloak and headdress sometime. She turned questioningly to Tepeyolotl and he smiled broadly and assured us he would arrange it all for the next day.

The next day, the last day of the festival, most of the planned festivities were in the evening, so the whole day was unstructured. Most people enjoyed visiting or just wandering around the market, but Tepeyolotl took us straight to the palace. We climbed up the stairs to the raised platform. He presented the guard at the top of the stairs a small piece of paper with some writing and a seal on it. The guard looked at it and waved us on. There was a large open space in front of the palace. We crossed it and approached another guard at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the palace. He examined the piece of paper very closely before letting us pass. We climbed up the few steps to the palace entrance. It was a very large building made entirely from highly polished carved stone. On either side of the door there were representations of the various animals whose name was used by an Ordu in the Khanate. The first two were, of course, the eagle and the ocelotl. The images were very lifelike rather than the usual more symbolic representation, and beneath the image was inscribed, in Mongol, all the campaigns in which the Ordu had taken part.

The doors to the palace were huge; each was about fifteen feet high, six feet wide and two inches thick. They were made of a very hard wood, perhaps the same wood as the practice swords, and were elaborately carved with a representation of a raven. The guards at the door also examined Tepeyolotl’s paper very carefully. One of them told us to wait and opened one of the doors and went in for a short time. He soon returned with another man, clearly his superior, who smiled broadly at Tepeyolotl and invited us all into the palace. The doors were closed behind us after we entered. The entrance hall proved to be a huge open room with no furniture, but with various artistic wall hangings and statues set around the walls. Opposite the entrance, there was no wall, only a few pillars holding up the second floor. Beyond the pillars there was a large interior courtyard surrounded by the palace. The courtyard had fruit trees, shrubs, flowers, and even fountains, benches, and a walkway.

Our host turned out to be Tlauquechol, the head of the palace guard, and an old friend of Tepeyolotl. As boys they had been playmates in Chalco. He was delighted to make my acquaintance and, hearing that I was training under Acolmiztli, urged me to give him his regards. It seemed Acolmiztli had also trained him and he assured me I was in most capable hands. He took us around the room explaining each of the statues and wall hangings. The statues proved to be representations of all the Khans, not only of Anahuac, but also the other Khanates. He explained that some were perhaps not very accurate since they had already died before the task was undertaken, but much effort had been made to seek the approval of those who had known them in life. I thought Grandfather’s image was quite good, better than the one in Panuco. I studied the images of my uncles, George and Theodore, whom I had never met. George looked rather like my father, but Theodore looked more like Grandfather. I stared in wonder at Kaidu’s image. He looked powerful. Kuyuk had been made to look dissipated (no doubt on purpose) and Juchi looked rather heroic. Jelme looked completely inscrutable while Batu looked very much like Juchi. I returned to my relatives and studied John and Henry. The former was perhaps the handsomest of all, but he looked rather arrogant. The latter looked almost gentle. The only other one that interested me was the current Khan of the Clouds, since my father despised him so. He looked rather impassive, but otherwise was a good-looking fellow.

When Tlauquechol was finally able to pry me away from the statuary, he took us into the room on the right. In this room were memorabilia from the various campaigns in the south. One wall had a large map of the southern landmass showing the progress of the campaigns to date. I was totally captivated by this and ignored all else in the room. It looked as though I was fairly up to date on the campaigns, although there seemed to be more inland penetration in the eastern theater than I had thought.

Again I had to be pried away to enter the next room. Here was Grandfather’s finery. The armor was quite amazing—it looked exactly like steel snake scales. The helmet reminded me of the entrance to the temple of Quetzalcoatl and I wondered if it had been patterned after the helmet. I noticed with pride that they would be much too small to fit me. The feather cloak and headdress were magnificent; the colors were still vibrant after all these years. They also had his original raven feather banner and his weapons. It was strange to have these things I had read about suddenly in front of me. There were also a few other things that had been gifts presented to him by various people. They were mostly finery: silks, ornaments, jewelry, feather work, and textiles, but they looked like they had never been used at all.

The next two rooms contained the memorabilia, armor, and weapons of George and John, respectively. Next was a large reception hall. It was lavishly furnished with decorative wall hangings and statuary. At the far end there was an elaborately carved wooden chair on a raised platform with smaller, but just as elaborate chairs on either side. It seemed the Khan and his sons used these. There were also strategically placed simple chairs around the room. Several servants stood silently and motionless around the room at various intervals. This was the last room we could enter on the right side of the palace, so Tlauquechol led us out into the great courtyard and into the gardens. He led us around the periphery back toward the entrance hall. He mentioned that beyond the reception hall was a staircase and then a large bathroom. From the garden I could see that there was a second floor all around. It was there that the Khan and his family and any state guests lived.

As Tlauquechol took us past the entrance hall, he pointed out that the room on its left was a guardroom. Next were two rooms of barracks for the guards. Next were another staircase, then the kitchen, and then the banquet hall. Beyond the banquet hall there was a smaller dining room. The back of the palace contained small rooms for less-distinguished guests. He led the way to the kitchen and we were given a light snack, which we ate at the guards’ table. We all thanked Tlauquechol for showing us everything and for the snack as he led us back to the entrance hall. Just as we entered the hall, a young man about my age entered from the room on the right of the hall (the one with the map) and seeing us, approached. He was shorter than me, but had a more muscular build. He was too fair to be a Mexica and wore a very friendly smile as he drew near. Tlauquechol bowed low and the rest of us followed suit.

“Tlauquechol! If I am not mistaken, it looks like you have at least one of my relatives with you. Isn’t this the son of John the Healer?”

 

“It is, sire, along with his sister and her family.”

 

“I am your cousin, Theodore. I’m delighted to meet you at last. We never see your father around the palace unless someone is ill and he’s never brought you along to meet us.”

We each introduced ourselves and Theodore gave all his attention to each of us as we spoke. He seemed totally without arrogance or even awareness of his position. He was pleased to hear that I was training with Acolmiztli and told me he would be joining us when we went on maneuvers with the Ocelotl Ordu later in the summer. To everyone’s surprise, he insisted on spending the rest of the day with us and led the way out of the palace. He was a wonderful host and knew the best places to see all the final entertainments and the closing ceremonies. The closing ceremonies were interesting. They were held in the plaza in front of the palace. The Khan and his distinguished guests stood at the top of the stairs with the entire palace guard behind them. Theodore pointed out his brother George and the Tlatoani Mocteuzoma and Nezahualcoyotl. Theodore was able to get us quite close to them, so I took a good look. George feigned interest but was furtively looking around at everyone. His eyes even caught and held mine for a moment and it looked like he was smirking at me. Mocteuzoma looked fierce and not at all devious. Nezahualcoyotl looked serene and seemed to be really enjoying himself. Henry surprised me. He looked like the kindest, gentlest man I had seen since my grandfather. The first cold finger of doubt about the “revolution” began to poke at me.

The ceremonies included some special songs and poetry readings and then the banner of the Khan (the raven feather banner) was brought out and all the guards behind the Khan beat their swords against their shields to reenact the founding of the Khanate of Anahuac. I found the moment rather moving and my doubts began to grow stronger. After a great display of colored rockets, the Khan and his guests withdrew and the festival was over. Theodore joined us for our evening meal at the house of Miahuaxihuitl. The latter was most honored by his guest and Papan seemed almost giddy. After dinner I had to return to my barracks and Theodore accompanied me since the palace was on the way. I discovered he was also interested in southern campaigns and we agreed to meet on my next free day to study that wonderful map together.

After he left me and I continued the short distance to the barracks, I began to churn over the events of the day in my mind and for the first time acknowledged my second thoughts about the “revolution.” I really liked Theodore and wasn’t at all pleased about having to use him and perhaps be responsible for his exile or even death. Seeing my grandfather’s things made me wonder about working to destroy all he had worked to create. I had never really known my royal relatives, so it had been easy to plot to overthrow strangers. Now things had changed. I did not sleep well that night, but by morning I decided that it was too late to back out now. Over the years I have often wondered how different my life might have been had I dropped out at that point and told someone all I knew, but given who I was at that moment, I suppose what happened was inevitable. I enthusiastically threw myself into my training and was quite pleased with my growing strength and ability. The recruits were coming along quite well also, and I took no little pride in their accomplishments. Late that summer it was deemed that the group was ready to go on forest maneuvers with the Ocelotl Ordu. We rose before dawn and with full gear and real weapons left the city again on the causeway to Tepeyac. We marched all the way to Tultepec, about forty-five li north of the city before we were allowed any rest. It was a small town with a dense woods north and west of it leading to the mountains some distance away. After a light meal we were allowed to rest while awaiting the arrival of the Ordu. We did not have long to wait.

We first saw a dust cloud in the east. It seemed to be growing wider and higher and heading for us. Then we heard the pounding of the hooves of thousands of horses sounding like a continuous roll of thunder. Finally the ground began to shake as the throng approached. We all jumped up, quickly formed ranks, and moved to one side. The Ordu seamlessly dismounted and shifted into infiltrative formation. I could see Theodore with the commander’s staff, but we could only wave to each other. Soundlessly the Ordu moved into the woods. The men looked wraithlike since they were covered with dust from their long ride. We moved in behind them trying to keep up with them and at the same time emulate their silent movement. I was used to such movement from much training among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya, but the recruits did not cover themselves with glory during this exercise. It’s not that they went crashing through the woods, but they made enough noise to attract the stern glances of the warriors we were following. Finally one of the arban commanders came back and told us to fall behind if necessary but stop making so much noise. Acolmiztli bade me keep up with the Ordu and when they stopped, come back to the group and guide them in.

I had a little trouble keeping up with the Ordu, but made no sound and managed to keep them in sight. They did not stop until dusk. I noticed carefully the area and hurried back to find the recruits. It was dark before I found them and Acolmiztli decided it would be best if we slept where we were and moved out again at first light. We ate a cold snack and slept the sleep of the exhausted. Acolmiztli roused us all before there was any light and bid us eat quickly and prepare to move out. He put me in the lead to guide and as soon as the shadows began to lighten we started. As it got lighter, the noise disappeared and the pace picked up. I reached the spot where the Ordu had stopped, but they were already gone. I went ahead again to find them while the troop picked up its pace. I soon found that the Ordu had suddenly turned to the south and I placed a marker to indicate the change of direction. I finally caught up with them while they paused for a quick meal. They were surprised to see me and cheerfully waved. I waved back and turned back to find my men. To my relief they were only a few hundred yards behind me and had not missed my marker.

We arrived just as the Ordu rose to leave and had to eat our meal on the way. We were able to keep up after that and made no more noise. After two days we turned northeast and a few days later in the late afternoon emerged from the woods at the very spot we had entered. The men who had stayed behind with the horses had a camp already prepared and plentiful hot food ready for us. The commander of the Ordu had a Mongol name, Baidar, but he looked like he was from the valley. He was quite pleased with the exercise and invited Acolmiztli to dine with him. The rest of us ate with the Ordu. The recruits were teased about the noise they had made the first day, but it was clear they were accepted since they had finally caught up and learned to infiltrate. Theodore sought me out and told me that I had been mentioned to the commander as the one who had kept the recruits in touch with the Ordu during their first shaky days. He congratulated me on my achievement and invited me to visit him at the palace when we returned. He assured me we would get a few days off when we returned to Tlatelolco.

The next morning the Ordu mounted up and rode east to their camp. We gathered up our gear and turned south for the long walk back to the city. Acolmiztli said nothing until we had arrived at the barracks. He then called us to attention, praised us for our performance, and gave us three days off. We hurried to clean up. I was particularly happy we instructors had our own bathroom. We spent the rest of the afternoon leisurely cleaning off a week’s grime. As I was leaving the barracks in the evening, a young serving man approached me.

“Are you Cacalotl, the cousin of the Khan?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I am to take you to the palace at the request of Van (prince) Theodore.”

I was pleased to be meeting my friend again, but apprehensive about having now to do my part for the revolution. I followed the servant silently to a side entrance to the palace compound. It was a rather hidden entrance; unless you knew it was there, you would never notice it. It opened into a narrow room that contained a stairway to the second floor. To my amazement he led me up the stairs and along a covered corridor to very large nicely furnished room near what seemed to be the northeast corner of the palace. He told me to make myself comfortable and Theodore would be along shortly. I sat back on a comfortable bench and fell asleep.

“Wake up, Cousin,” a cheerful voice broke into a strange dream. “You don’t want to sleep through dinner, do you?”

 

“Forgive me.” I staggered up. “I’m afraid your bench is too comfortable.”

 

“So it is,” he laughed. “But come, I like to eat in the kitchen with the guards rather than in the banquet room with the guests. Do you mind?”

 

“Not at all. I’m not really dressed for a banquet.”

 

“You know, I hadn’t noticed that before, but you are rather rudely dressed. Acolmiztli likes all his recruits to rough it. I don’t think we have anything that would fit you here. You are so tall.”

“I have better clothes at home, but I suspect I am dressed well enough for the kitchen.”
“Yes, you are. Come.”

We went down the corridor to the same stairs I had come up and at its base was a door that led to the kitchen. All the staff warmly greeted Theodore, as did the guards when he sat down with them. He introduced me to them all and they received me kindly as well. Tlauquechol was not with them that day. It seemed Van George had an assignment for him. Theodore rolled his eyes at this news and said that George was always up to something. After dinner, Theodore took me to the room with the map and we spent the rest of the evening sharing what we had heard of the campaigns. He was quite well informed and was able to flesh out some of my more vague information. It seemed that there was no major campaign under way in the Khanate of the Clouds, although one was planned for the coming year, and he planned to be a part of it. The Khanate of the Green Mist was now engaged in small campaigns into the interior, but planned another push to the south very soon. After a few hours of this, he thought it best we retire for the night, but promised to show me around the palace the next day. He guided me back to the large room which he informed me was mine during my stay. He bid me good night and I stripped and sank into the most comfortable bed I had ever known.

10
Tlatelolco, 91 K
(Mexico City, 1459)

The next morning I awakened early and looked around the room. There was a window overlooking the interior courtyard. Looking out it, I could see that I was near the left-rear corner of the palace. To one side of the room, there was what amounted to a private bath. We had them back in Cuauhnahuac, but not so elaborate or luxurious. Both my father and grandfather favored the utilitarian and simple. Even that was not in use among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya and the barracks were rather rudimentary in their comforts. The furniture was both elaborately carved and comfortable. There were rugs on the floor and decorative hangings of the wall. I was going to miss this room. In due course, a servant scratched at the door and bid me follow him. This time we went in the other direction down the corridor toward the back of the palace. He led me down a circular staircase and through a door into a large dining room. At the table were both Theodore and his brother George. Theodore rose to greet me, but George remained seated and again regarded me with a smirk.

“Did you sleep well?” Theodore asked as he motioned me into a chair next to him.
“Oh, yes,” I replied. “That is the most comfortable bed I’ve ever had.”

“Good. George insisted I introduce you to him, so I had you brought here. Don’t worry about your clothes; none of the rest of the family will be here. George, this is our cousin Cacalotl. This is my brother, George, Cacalotl.” “That’s not really your name, is it?” George raised an eyebrow. “No, you were named for our illustrious ancestor, Karl the Raven, weren’t you?”

“Yes, I was, sir. I am called Cacalotl as a nickname, much as our ancestor was called the Raven.” “How did you like the maneuvers?”

“I found them quite challenging. The Ordu is a marvel of skill and discipline. Our small cadre was much pressed to keep up with them.”

“Indeed? I heard you covered yourself with glory.”
“Someone has been most kind, sir. I was merely adequate.”
“I feel sorry for anyone who tries to take on the Ordu, don’t you?”
“Yes, sir. It would be a thankless task.”
“Well, it was good to meet you, Cousin. I’m sure I’ll be seeing more of you until you go on campaign.” “It was an honor to meet you, sir.”

He seemed to be toying with me throughout our conversation and could not resist a backward smirk as he left. Puzzled, I asked Theodore if I had done something to anger his brother. He assured me that I hadn’t, but George was like that with most people. I shouldn’t let it bother me. Theodore wanted to show me around the palace, but first, he had a surprise for me after we ate breakfast. We ate a light meal; then he led me upstairs to his room. It was on the same corridor as mine, but was near the front of the palace and much larger and even better furnished. Waiting for us was a tailor who, over my protests, measured me for some better clothes and assured me they would be ready in the evening.

After the measuring, Theodore explained that he didn’t want me to be uncomfortable in the presence of his family because of my attire. So he thought we could take a ride today, and tomorrow, when I would be better attired, he would show me the rest of the palace. I thanked him for his generosity and thoughtfulness. He brushed it off and led the way downstairs again. We went down the circular stairs again, and at the landing opened a door, which opened on another staircase leading down into a basement area, level with the street outside. We went along a corridor, then turned down a narrow passageway leading away from the palace and came to a hidden doorway that opened into a stable area housing the palace horses. The attendants had two magnificent white horses (by custom, since the reign of John, all the Khan’s horses were white) all ready for us. We quickly mounted and rode out into the street. We left the city by the causeway to Tlacopan, and near its end, took the south fork toward Chapultepec. As we rode, we chatted about our very different experiences. He had not been sent north as I had, but had been sent to Texcoco to study. He had arrived just after I had left from my short stay there. He had enjoyed it but was envious of my stay among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya. He greatly admired the northern warriors.

We stopped in Chapultepec and climbed the small hill overlooking the lake. He remarked that the two islands were so beautiful from this vantage point. I had to agree. I told him about the day a few months before when I had approached the city from the south near dawn for my first view of it (that I was old enough to remember). We sat in silence for a while enjoying the view. Finally I decided to fulfill my “revolutionary” mission.

“Do you think there is any possibility of a revolt against the Khanate?”

 

“What a strange question!” He seemed completely bewildered. “I can’t imagine such a thing. We’ve brought order out of chaos here. It just wouldn’t make any sense. Where did you get such an idea?” “Over the years, I’ve run into a few people who felt the Khanate had done more harm than good. I just wondered if you had gotten any such indication.”

 

“No, never. It’s hard to believe you found anyone like that. Were they all in the north?”

 

“Most, except for the band of rebels among the Huaxteca.”

 

“No need for concern there. The Huaxteca would revolt against their own families if it meant a fight. Anyway, all their neighbors would love to help us crush them.”

 

“Why don’t you? They think the Khan is weak because he has not moved against them.”

“Weak!” He nearly shouted the word. “He is so strong, he dares to be merciful; so sure of himself, he dares to be patient; so wise, he dares to be kind and generous. If they think him weak, they gravely misjudge him and they will regret it.”

“In truth, I found very little support for the rebels among the Huaxteca along the trade road. Most declared their ignorance of any revolt and were generally alarmed that I would suggest its existence. I suspect, despite the claims of the rebel band that captured me, there isn’t much of a groundswell for revolution there.”

He asked me about my run-in with the Huaxteca rebels and I told him what happened. We talked a while about them and the other peoples of Anahuac finding ourselves to be of one mind about most of them. We both agreed that the Maya (except for the Putun) were the most ungovernable, the Tya Nuu the most prone to revolt, and the Otomi the most inscrutable. He suggested that the Alcolhua, the Tepaneca, the Tlahuica, the Chalca and the Ben Zah were the least likely to revolt. I agreed with all but the last, since I didn’t know much about them. I asked him what he thought about the Mexica.

“The Mexica!” he chuckled. “As to the Tlatelolca, we need not worry. They are the closest thing to the Putun Maya in the valley. The Tenocha are another matter. It is odd how different they are from their supposed cousins, the Tlatelolca. Grandfather (Khan John) did not trust them at all and had spies in place throughout their various classes. Father is not quite so cynical, but my brother George is. When he is Khan, he will probably renew the spies.”

“Do you think that is necessary?”

 

“I don’t know. I’m glad I am not the oldest. I don’t want to worry about all that intrigue. I just want to become a great warrior and let others handle all the rest of things.”

“But you could become Khan, if anything were to happen to your brother.”
“I know. That’s why I pray for him every day. I hope Tengri will guard him diligently in all his ways.” “You pray to Tengri, the Mongol god?”

“Well, it is convenient to call our God, Tengri. He is more like him than any of the local gods. Don’t you think?”

“I suppose so. Most of the people in the north also believe in one god. Of course, they also believe in many spirits and demigods and the Ani’ Yun’-wiya believed in a small woodland people, the Yunwi Tsunsdi, who would help those lost in the woods and a spirit people, the Nunne hi, who could appear at will to help them.”

“Rather benevolent, something like angels, so you suppose?”

 

“Angels? I don’t remember them. My father was rather brief with my religious instruction. It consisted mostly in cautioning me not to adopt the beliefs of others.”

 

“I see. I don’t know where my father got all the details, but angels are powerful spirits that serve God. We can ask them to help us.”

 

“Interesting. But why go through the servants instead of directly to God? It sounds like an unnecessary bit of layering between God and us. Besides, if God is omnipotent, he doesn’t need servants.”

 

“I’m afraid you’ll need to pursue this conversation with my father. I really don’t know much about it.”

We left the theological discussion and turned to arms and soldiering, an area in which we were both fairly adept. He said his best weapon was the sword, although he was also quite good with both kinds of spears. He was only passable with the bow. Neither of us had any experience using either the regular or mini cannon. I told him we were the perfect complement, since I was the exact opposite. We decided to help each other with our weak spots when we returned to the palace. We mounted up and started back the way we had come. We arrived at the palace in the late afternoon due to our leisurely pace. We turned the horses over to an attendant and reentered the palace through the hidden door. We went along the corridor in a different direction this time, and it ended at a large room full of weapons, both real and practice. We picked up two of the practice swords and he worked with me for a while. He was not exaggerating; he was the best I had ever seen with the sword. He showed me several of his techniques, but I could see that most of his moves were instinctive and thus very hard to teach. We also worked on the bow and I did see some improvement on his part. When we finished he led the way up some stairs that opened into a large bathroom. We had it to ourselves at this hour as we cleaned up after our workout.

When we finished, two servants had fresh clothes ready for us. The tailor had made mine for me that very day. They were made of the finest, softest cotton. I prevailed on the servants not to burn my old clothes, but clean them for me and return them to my room. That amused Theodore. He led the way out into the central courtyard. This time, we strolled along the path through the garden. There was a woman sitting on a bench in the middle of the garden. She had an air of quiet dignity about her and when she heard our approach she turned and smiled sweetly.

“Mother, I want to introduce you to our cousin, Cacalotl,” he said bowing before her. Then to me, “This is my mother, Chalchiuhtona.”

“I am honored to meet you.” I bowed.
“You are the son of John the Healer, of course.”
“Yes, madam.”

“He is a strange but very gifted man. I can’t say that I know him at all, but I can say I respect him greatly and am in his debt.”

“I can’t say I know him either, madam, but I, too, respect him.”
“I understand he is away again. I have also heard that your brother, Theodore, will be back soon.” “I hadn’t heard. It has been a long time since I have seen him.”
“You boys must be hungry after your long ride. Come, dinner should be ready by now.”

She led us into the large dining room where the rest of the family was filing in along with a few guests. I was introduced to the Khan and to his only daughter, Christina. The former I had seen before, but from this vantage I could see his kindness and gentleness at first hand as he greeted me warmly. Christina was a few years younger than me and was a charming, friendly young girl, reminding me of my nieces (Sarah’s children). George greeted me politely, but still regarded me with a smirk. The guests were a mixed lot, mostly from the ruling families of provinces of the Khanate, but there was also a man from the north. He was perhaps in his twenties and was the son of the commander of the Alligator Ordu. I thought he was a Timacua, but he turned out to be of mixed parentage. His father was Calusa and his mother Taino. His name was Boal, which was Mongol. I asked him about his name and it seemed he was named for a man who had served under his father and had been killed defending him. It happened while his father had been on campaign in the Khanate of the Green Mist. He had been a jagun commander at the time and he had been sent back to bring up more supplies. They had been ambushed and were hard-pressed for a while before driving the enemy off. Boal was his father’s second in command and had taken a spear intended for him. I asked him if he had known Oganaya and he had not, but his father had and spoke of him fondly.

Most of the conversation around the table was about the dike, which was being built between Tepeyac and Ixtapalapa across the Lake. It would prevent any more of the flooding that had occurred some six years before. It would also reduce the brackishness of the water around Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco, enabling a significant expansion of the chinampa gardens in this part of the lake. It was quite a project. When finished, it would be nearly thirty li long. It was made of parallel rows of huge logs driven into the lake bed about sixty feet apart and filled in between them with rocks, gravel, and dirt. At given intervals, there were sluice gates that permitted the movement of water traffic. The project was expected to be finished soon, perhaps within the year. All felt it would be a boon to the mushrooming population of the two islands.

One of the guests, Coatleztli, the son of the governor of Xochimilco, said that he had heard that there was a lot of resentment around the valley about the worker levies used to build the dike. Some of the cities felt they shouldn’t have to help build something that would be of no benefit to them. The Khan was genuinely surprised to hear this and asked why no one had said anything to him. Coatleztli suggested that the grumbling was not against him, but against a project that would only benefit the Mexica. The Khan thought that was rather churlish, since it would ultimately make the Mexica less dependent on others for food and help in time of flood. Coatleztli reminded him that the Mexica were not exactly revered in the valley. He shrugged and said he could understand that, so far as the Tenocha were concerned, since they did not exactly endear one, but surely the Tlatelolca were not despised. Coatleztli shook his head, and said the Tlatelolca were envied for their wealth and the Tenocha despised for their arrogance. I shot a look at George during this exchange. He was listening intently and still smirking. Theodore, on the other hand, was obviously quite bored and was anxiously awaiting a chance to leave the table.

Once everyone had finished eating and the chocolatl was served, the Khan turned to Theodore and me and said we could be excused if we wished. Theodore thanked him and rose quickly. I also rose and thanked the Khan for his hospitality. Then we both bowed and left the room carrying our chocolatl. Theodore led the way through the banquet hall and into the kitchen where we sat down with the guards. Here he really seemed to enjoy himself joking with the men and trading stories. It was interesting to see this. He was an intelligent, welleducated young man, but was more comfortable in the company of rough guards than those that would be considered his peers. As it happened, a couple of the guards were great storytellers and they were more fun than the Khan’s guests, but I was surprised that Theodore would be so sure I would share his preference.

During the course of the evening, I found I could spin a good tale myself. I told them an old Ani’ Yun’-wiya legend about the boy who mollified the Sun’s anger after many adventures and complications. After a few hours of tales, we turned in for the night. When I reached my room, I readied myself for bed, then lay down and did some soul-searching. Thinking of Khan Henry, Chalchiuhtona, Theodore, and Christina, it was hard to justify my taking part in any revolution against them. I was almost about to abandon the whole sordid business when I thought of George’s smirking face and realized that he would be the next Khan. If the system resulted in such as he ruling the Khanate, it should be abolished. I would simply have to do all I could to protect the rest of my cousins.

The next day, Theodore came for me early and, after a pleasant breakfast, we began our tour. Since it was still a little early, he decided to show me the basement first. We went down the stairs and corridor toward the corral, but stopped before we reached it and went through a door on the right down another corridor. It led to a row of storerooms. They held dried food: meat, grain, and fruit. Where the corridor turned left, there was a huge storeroom full of weapons: swords, spears, bows, and arrows. Near the back of the room was a stairway leading up to the guardroom right next to the entrance hall. Next was a very large storeroom, but it was locked. Theodore couldn’t recall what was in it, but suspected it was just more weapons. The corridor turned left again leading to first the Khanate’s archives (it held all the official correspondence and documents), then one more storeroom (root vegetables), and a workroom where things were fixed. The corridor ended in the weapon room we had used the day before. On the far side of that room was the corridor leading back to the corral. Along this corridor was a room, which was known as George’s workshop. He had been working on some sort of project in there and insisted that no one be allowed in the room. He alone had the key. I wondered that the Khan would allow this, but Theodore said George was working on a surprise for the Khan and the latter didn’t want to spoil it. I was immediately suspicious, but said no more about it. The final room was a storeroom for riding gear. We went back up the stairs continuing on up to the second floor.

At the top of the stairs, we turned down the corridor along the back of the palace. Theodore explained that all the rooms were guest rooms much like mine, only larger. We continued to the end, where a door on the right revealed another corridor. The first room along this corridor was George’s. We did not enter. The next door revealed a stairway. Next was the Council Room, a large lavishly decorated room with elaborate chairs arranged in a large oval. Next was a large library furnished with shelves full of books. Theodore showed me that the books were arranged according to language. On the far right were the books of the old picture writing: Nahual, Maya, Tya Nuu, Ben Zah and Purepecha, mostly histories and poetry. Next were most of the same books both translated into Mongol and rewritten in the original language using the Uighur script. Next were the books Grandfather had written from memory in Hanjen and then the same translated into Mongol. Next were books written by various authors in various languages on various subjects and their Mongol translations. Next were language dictionaries of all the languages in the Khanate, with their Mongol equivalents. Finally there were recent reports from the various governors and Ordu commanders of the Khanate. In a place of honor in the library was my grandfather’s book in the old language. I asked Theodore if he had read it. He replied that his father had read it to him and his siblings when they were children. He had never learned the old language. George did know the old language, however. That did not surprise me.

While we were still in the library, a door opened and the Khan entered. Theodore explained that the door led to his father’s room. Henry was delighted to see us in the library and asked if I enjoyed poetry. I had to admit that I preferred histories. He nodded but asked me to listen to one poem he found and tell him what I thought of it. It was in Nahual.

“The river passes, passes, never stopping. / The wind passes, passes, never stopping. / Life passes, never returning.”

“Rather fatalistic, isn’t it, sir?” I suggested, not sure what I was supposed to think.
“Which people do you suspect wrote that?”
“Is it originally Nahual or a translation?”
“Good question. It is a translation.”
“The most fatalistic people I know are the Otomi. Is it theirs?”

“Excellent. You have a very good mind young Karl. I hope you put it to good use. You may come here to read whenever your duties permit. I’ll let the guards know.”

He left the library and Theodore clapped me on the back, congratulating me for figuring out his father’s puzzle. He admitted that he had no idea who wrote the poem, and moreover, he didn’t care. He laughed at his own remark, but I was intrigued that there was such a thing as Otomi poetry and wondered if they also had any histories. Theodore didn’t think so, but we looked on the shelves anyway and didn’t find any. It was obvious to me that Theodore was ready to leave so, being a good guest, I suggested that we repair to the map room again. This delighted him and he led the way. We spent the rest of the morning with the map.

After a midday meal, we spent the afternoon in the weapons room again working on our weaknesses. Then we cleaned up again and joined the family and guests for dinner. To my surprise, none of the guests were the same as the night before. The most honored guest was the Tlatoani of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl, who had come with a few of his children, among them, one of his sons, Acapipioltzin, who was about a year older than me. The latter was to go on campaign shortly and had come to take leave of his aunt and uncle and cousins. He sat with Theodore and me, and we talked about going on campaign, while the others talked about more mundane matters, especially the dike.

Acapipioltzin would be going with a whole tumen. They were due to go right after the Harvest Festival. They would be traveling by land all the way, so they planned to go across the mountains toward the south and proceed along the southern coast where the terrain tended to be dry, and they would not reach the jungle of the isthmus until the early winter when it was the dry season. He suggested we would probably be leaving at the same time next year if we were going with a tumen. Theodore thought we would probably be going on our own and would likely go by boat in the early spring. Acapipioltzin agreed that that would be easier, but he was looking forward to the long march with the tumen.

We did not leave the table early this time, but remained talking until the Khan rose. He excused himself and left. The rest began to depart, and we decided to go look at the map to trace out Acapipioltzin’s line of march. Before leaving, I stopped and took the opportunity to thank Nezahualcoyotl again for giving me Cuauhtzin. “You still have the little rascal? Is he here with you?”

“No, sir. My father felt his noise would be inappropriate. I do miss him, but he is in good hands.” “He had the most amazing vocabulary of Otomi insults. You did us a big favor taking him. He was an embarrassment.”

 

“The only one who understands him is our servant Tetl, who is much amused by his salty tongue. There are few Otomi in Cuauhnahuac.”

 

“Indeed, and your father rarely entertains. You were the perfect choice for the bird, especially since you seemed to have a rapport with animals. Do you still?”

“Yes, sir. I do. It is one of my few talents.”
“Good. Listen to them; they have much to teach you.”

I pondered that last statement on the way to the map room. We spent the rest of the evening with the map. After tracing Acapipioltzin’s route, we also traced the various trips we had taken over the years. Mine were the most interesting. We all turned in eventually, and I was again left with my misgivings. It was clear to me that any revolt at this time was most unlikely to succeed. The Tenocha could hardly overthrow the Khanate by themselves and I had little reason to believe anyone was in league with them. It was obvious Nezahualcoyotl would not take part in any action against his own sister’s family, and the night before, Coatleztli had suggested that most of the Valley despised the Tenocha. Furthermore, with all their duplicity, I had no reason to believe they would honor the principle of self-determination for the several tribes. Still, I had committed myself to their cause, and it would be dishonorable to turn on them now. I felt caught in a trap of my own making. In due course, Nezahualcoyotl’s final words came back to me, and I thought of my spirit guide. I had long neglected him and found it difficult to contact him now. I decided I needed to get away from everyone for a few days and reestablish contact with him. It would have to wait, however, for I would have to return to the barracks the next day.

Comfortable as the bed was, I did not sleep well. The next morning I arose early more from custom than anything else and put on my rough training garb. I went down to the dining room and found Acapipioltzin and George there. I joined them and, in due course, Theodore also arrived. He said how much he enjoyed having me visit the last few days and hoped I could come back soon. I thanked him for his kind hospitality and his help with my sword skills. When we finished eating, I wished Acapipioltzin a safe journey and a good campaign and expressed the hope that I would see him the following year. I thanked George for his hospitality with my tongue firmly in my cheek. He regarded me with his trademark smirk and nodded my dismissal. Theodore led me to the side door facing the barracks and, reminding me I could visit anytime I wanted, wished me well as I left.

I slipped back into the routine quickly enough and impressed everyone with my improvement with the sword and my general intensity. After a few days, however, Acolmiztli called me over at the end of the day’s practice. He told me to clean myself up and report to his quarters. Puzzled, I did as he requested, in due time, tapping on his door. He opened it and ushered me in. There, to my complete surprise, was my brother Theodore. The latter jumped up and grabbed me in a bear hug. I was startled by such affection after all these years, but it was quite sincere and seemed to have some urgency. Alarmed, I asked if all of the family were well. He assured me they were and bid me be seated. Acolmiztli excused himself and left us alone.

“Karl, I came as quickly as I could. It is you I am concerned about.”
“Me? Why?”

“I was in the desert to the north some days ago and came across an old man who was dying. I stopped to help him. I carried him into some shade and gave him some water. He was too far gone to save, but he looked at me with that distant look of the dying and said that my little brother needed me more that he did. With that he died. I came as quickly as I could.”

“But I am fine. He must have been delirious.”
“Karl, one of your most endearing traits is your inability to lie convincingly. Why don’t you tell me what is troubling you and let me help you.”

“You are most kind to want to help, but this is a problem of my own making and I alone must deal with it.” “Sometimes talking to another can make it easier to find a way to deal with a problem.”

“Perhaps. Tell me, if you have committed yourself to others on a course of action and later find that course is mistaken, would you turn on the others or see it through to its conclusion?”

“Can you just walk away from it, neither turning on anyone or taking further part in it?”
“No, I can’t.”
“Then you must take the decision that serves the greater good.”
“That is hard to determine.”
“The course that would harm the fewest.”
“That, also, is hard to determine.”
“Can you not tell me more? I will not tell anyone else without your leave. I want to help you.”

“I cannot put you in that position. But I do appreciate your wanting to help me. It is something I need to deal with on my own. When I get some leave again, I will go consult with my spirit guide.”

 

“I’m sure I am to help you with this. I will stay in Cuauhnahuac until the situation is resolved. You can always reach me there if and when you need me. Remember, I want to help and I am sure I can help.” “Thank you. But enough of this, come and join us for dinner and tell me all about your travels. I thought you were in the east.”

He joined me for dinner with the other instructors and regaled us with tales of his experiences. He prevailed on me to tell about my time in the north and we spent a pleasant evening. He slept in the barracks with me that night and, the next morning, left for home. Once more, he admonished me to get in touch with him if I should need his help or just want to talk. After a few weeks the Harvest Festival was almost upon us and Acolmiztli called us all together around noon.

“You have all done quite well. Those of you who are still here have done me proud and I’m honored to be associated with your training. There is nothing more you can learn here. You will all be expected to report to the Ocelotl Ordu two days after the festival. There you will complete your training. You will have to learn to do all you have learned here on horseback. I am dismissing you early so that you can go visit with your families during the festival and report to the Ordu rested and ready for action. Dismissed.”

Again Acolmiztli called me aside and gave me some chocolatl beans for spending during the festival. I thanked him and, after cleaning up quickly, left the barracks. I wandered down toward the eastern end of the island and engaged a boat to take me across the lake to Texcoco. We arrived in midafternoon and I walked through the city leaving it by a road leading north. I came upon a yam a little after dusk and spent the night in relative comfort. I purchased a little food for the road and continued north. I decided to see the old site of Teotihuacán, that Grandfather had mentioned in his book. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was, but I had a fairly good idea and felt I could ask along the way. It wasn’t long before I wished I had secured a horse, but I was determined to make it on foot.

Late in the afternoon, I came upon some people working in the fields and asked them where the old city was. They assured me I was on the right path and would be there shortly. Indeed, before long, I could see the large mounds that were the pyramids appear in the distance. I arrived at the base of the larger pyramid late in the afternoon. I drank a little water then climbed up to its top. I sat down on the apex and, closing my eyes, felt a surge of energy pass through my body. Clearing my mind, I sought out my spirit guide. I awoke the next morning, drank a little water, continued my fast, and again sought my guide.
In the late afternoon, I finally broke through the wall my neglect had built between my guide and me. I sought and received his guidance. I must have fallen asleep again, for it was pitch-black when I awakened. The stars were brilliant overhead, tiny fires in a nearby village were just visible, and I was really hungry. I ate some of my food and slept until dawn. I rose, ate a little, climbed down the pyramid, and set off southward toward Texcoco. For the first time in a long time, I felt completely at peace.

11
The Tenocha Revolt, 91K
(Mexico City, 1459)

When I reached Texcoco, I went straight to the palace. I presented myself to the guard and asked for Acapipioltzin, explaining that I was his cousin. He was startled to hear of my relationship and ushered me into the entrance hall and presented me to the commander of the guards. The commander was also surprised to hear that the son of the Tlatoani had such a strange-looking cousin. He asked me exactly how I was related. When I explained my “relationship,” he gave me a sidelong glance and asked if the family actually knew me. I insisted that some of them did and named those I had met a few weeks before. He explained that Acapipioltzin was with the Ordu to the south of town, but the others were here. He had a servant announce me and stayed with me, keeping a close eye on me.

The entrance hall of Nezahualcoyotl’s palace was quite different from that of the Khan. It was quite a bit smaller and had no statuary, but had plants and decorative wall hangings. On the other hand, the palace itself seemed to be larger, with many more rooms, and no interior courtyard. There were extensive gardens behind it instead. In due course, the servant returned to announce that the Tlatoani himself would receive his “cousin” right away. The commander shrugged and returned to his duties, while the servant led me to Nezahualcoyotl. He was sitting in a chair in a small study reading an old book when I was ushered into his presence. He waved me into a chair and finished his reading before looking up at me and smiling.

“Well, what brings my ‘cousin’ here?”

 

“I am sorry to bother you, sir. I wanted to see your son and borrow a horse so I could get to Cuauhnahuac before the festival.”

 

“That would be quite a ride in one day. But why didn’t you go directly from Tlatelolco? I’m sure you could have gotten a horse from your real cousins.”

“I do apologize for claiming kinship, but I thought it would be the best way to gain admittance to the palace. The reason I ask for the horse here is because I walked to Teotihuacán two days ago and rather than lose time being rowed back to Tlatelolco, I thought I would ask here.”

“Have you been to Teotihuacán before?”
“No, but my grandfather spoke of it in his book.”
“I have read all your grandfather’s books save one. If he mentions the City of the Gods, it must be in that book.” “It was in the book in our old language.”
“You can read that language?”
“Yes.”
“I have seen the book in the Khan’s library. What does he say about the city?”

“He said that it was the largest city he had ever seen in the ‘new’ land and that if one stands on the apex of the larger pyramid, one is strangely revitalized. He also said that he would go there whenever he was in the area.”

“Did you find the apex revitalizing?”
“I did.”
“I have also found it so. But I keep you from your mission.”

He pulled a rope, which signaled a servant to enter. He told the servant to see that I was given a fresh, wellrested horse immediately. He suggested to me that I spend the night with Acapipioltzin and the Ordu and set out the next day for Cuauhnahuac. I promised to look in on him, but thought I should ride through the night since I was anxious to get there. He shrugged and told me to tell his son to be sure to be at the palace the next morning.

I followed the servant to the stables and a horse was quickly prepared for me. I mounted up and rode through the city toward the south at a good clip. Once out of the city, I picked up the pace. Not far from the city, guards from the Ordu stopped me. I asked them to take me to Acapipioltzin, since I had a message from his father. He greeted me warmly but wondered why I was delivering messages from his father. I explained the situation and gave him his father’s message. Then I bid him an enjoyable festival and he bid me a safe journey. I rode off to the south.

It was already late afternoon, but I was determined to go as far as I could before stopping. The truth was, I was quite tired from my long walk that day. I thought of stopping at Chalco for the night, but decided that would be too far out of my way. Instead I headed for the causeway at Cuitlahuac. It would get me on the south side of the lake just east of Xochimilco. It was already dark when I crossed the causeway, but I went a little farther until I reached a yam a little west of Xochimilco. I ate a good meal and urged the keeper to get me up at first light with a fresh horse and keep the other horse until my return in a few days.

It was still dark when I mounted up the next morning, still munching some sort of meat, vegetable, and chili mixture in tlaxcalli bread. It was quite good, although a little fiery for breakfast. Dawn was lighting things up behind me as I rode west. It was full light by the time I turned south on the road to Cuauhnahuac. I kept up a good pace, although eventually I had to slow down since I could tell the horse was tiring. We were climbing, after all. I stopped near midday at a tiny yam and traded horses for the last leg of the journey. I finally arrived at home in the late afternoon. Just before the house came into view, I heard the unmistakable shriek of Cuauhtzin’s greeting. As I rode up, both Tetl and Theodore were in front of the house to meet me, and Cuauhtzin swooped over to perch on my shoulder. The horse was startled by the bird, but too tired to react strongly. I dismounted and embraced my brother and my friend, Tetl.

Tetl took the horse to the corral and Theodore walked into the house with me. Cuauhtzin remained attached to my shoulder. I sat down on a chair while Theodore thoughtfully secured some fruit and a wide-mouthed shallow pot for Cuauhtzin. I shared a piece of the fruit with Cuauhtzin and Theodore brought some chocolatl for us to drink. Finally he sat down across from me.

“You look so much better since the last time I saw you, Karl. You must have contacted your guide. How can I help you?”

I quietly told him the entire story from the beginning, my talks with Oganaya, all the others I met and my subsequent involvement in the “revolution.” I also told him how I came to have misgivings and finally concluded I had made a serious mistake. Then I told him how I had gone to Teotihuacán and with much difficulty reestablished contact with my guide. Finally I explained that my guide told me to turn myself into the Khan, but not to betray the others involved. Theodore remained silent through my discourse, and a little while longer. Then he spoke.

“You are in worse trouble than I thought. Your guide’s advice is brave, but hard. I think I see how I am to help you. You should turn yourself in to George and no one else. In fact, you should be alone with him when you do so.”

“George! He is the worst of them all. He is the only member of the family I would not mourn. He constantly regards me with an obnoxious smirk. He’ll likely torture me to death slowly himself.”

“No, he won’t, as long as you are alone with him when you tell him. There is much you do not know about the man. He is extremely bright and even more clever. I’m sure he is well aware of your involvement in the plot and is no doubt equally well aware of breadth of the conspiracy and the identity of most of the others who are involved. He will try to get you to betray them anyway and will be angry with you when you refuse. But there is one service you can perform for him before you see him and it will go a long way toward turning aside his wrath.”
“What might that be?”

“Are you personally aware whether the Khan suspects that there might be a conspiracy against him?” “From all I’ve heard, he can’t imagine such a thing.”
“Excellent. Tell that to your contact before you see George.”
“That will please him?”
“Yes, but only tell him after he suggests you turn on your ‘friends.’ ”
“How do you know George so well?”

“I was with him on campaign in the Khanate of the Clouds. I saved his life from a fever. I will not hesitate to remind him of the debt, to save your life. I don’t think it will be necessary, but just in case, I will go to Tlatelolco with you, ostensibly for the festival, but mostly so I can make sure he sees me.”

“Do you think I’ll be allowed to go on campaign next spring?”
“Oh yes, I’m sure you will. I’m not sure George will let you return, however.”
“It won’t be up to him unless the Khan dies.”
“Never underestimate him, Karl. He is ruthless. Whatever you do, watch out for him.”
“I will do as you say.”

Just to be sure, I consulted with my guide that night before I went to sleep and he concurred with Theodore’s suggestions. He urged me to be strong. The next day was the first day of the festival, but we stayed and enjoyed a relaxing day at home. I was not sure if I would ever see Cuauhtzin again, so I gave him a lot of attention, which he greatly enjoyed. Early the following morning, Theodore and I set out for Tlatelolco. We talked of many things along the way, especially our family. In the late afternoon, we parted company as he went on north toward Coyoacan and I turned east toward Xochimilco. I spent the night at the same yam as before and the next morning set off with the Tlatoani’s horse. I arrived in Texcoco just after noon and turned the horse in to the stable. I did not enter the palace, but left a note for the Tlatoani, thanking him for the use of the horse, and to Acapipioltzin, wishing him a safe trip with the Ordu, and then I went straight to the dock. With some difficulty I found a man willing to take me over to Tlatelolco, but only at twice the usual fee. I arrived at the capital in the midafternoon and headed straight for the market. I found Oztooa in his stall and told him in an undertone that I had been able to befriend my cousins and the Khan suspected nothing. He seemed pleased to hear that and told me to keep him advised more frequently. I said I would try, but I was being sent to the Ocelotl Ordu. He shrugged in resignation but suggested that I might be of service there.

I left the market and went straight to the palace. I was admitted readily and I went to the guardroom. I found Tlauquechol and asked him if he knew where George was. He replied that he was probably in his room getting ready for the events of the evening. He added that Theodore had been expecting me for a few days and wanted me to join him when I arrived. I told him I had to see George first, but promised to seek out Theodore afterward. He gave me a strange look.

I went directly to George’s room by the route least likely to cross anyone else’s path. I went through the rooms to the right of the entrance hall, climbing the stairs beyond the reception hall bringing me right to his door. I knocked on the closed door. His voice came back tinged with annoyance.

“You’re early. But come on in anyway.”
“You were expecting someone?” I asked as I entered.
“You!” He was surprised. “What brings you here? Lost your way?”
“No. I need to talk to you. It is important and it won’t take long.”
“Well?” He seemed bored.

“I have been part of a conspiracy to overthrow the Khanate. I have come to regret my involvement and am turning myself in to you.”

“Why?” His look darkened and hardened.
“The Khanate is better than any alternative likely to evolve from the conspiracy.”
“Really. How good of you to say so. Who else is involved?”
“It would not be right for me to say.”
“Maybe if I helped you. Tlacaelel, Mocteuzoma, Oztooa are any of these names familiar?” “It would not be right for me to say,” I repeated.
“What was your part in the conspiracy?”
“To find if the Khan suspected anything.”
“And what did you report?”
“That he did not.”
“How long ago did you report that?”
“Just before I came here.”
“Are you expected to report to the Ocelotl Ordu?”
“Yes, two days after the festival.”

“See that you do. Also, see that you no longer involve yourself with the treason. I’ll do what I can to keep you out of this. Now go present yourself to my brother. He’s been waiting for you.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

As I quickly left George’s room, I was completely astonished at his reaction to my confession. He hadn’t even bothered to return to his smirk as he dismissed me, but still wore the dark, hard look. I was certain I would be spending a long time in a cold dark cell awaiting execution or at least exile, but instead it was as though nothing happened. Theodore (my cousin) was delighted to see me and asked why it took me so long to get here. I said I had had some personal business to take care of, but was now at his disposal.

We had a great time for the rest of the festival. Theodore insisted on visiting Miahuaxihuitl and Papan again, much to their delight. As it turned out, my brother Theodore was also there and the two namesakes renewed their acquaintance. I managed to find a moment alone with my brother to tell him how the interview with George turned out. He was relieved but not surprised.

This festival was something like the Khanate Festival, although the emphasis in the entertainment was more local. The ending ceremony was a sort of general prayer of thanksgiving for the harvest led by Khan Henry. It was rather eloquent and Theodore whispered to me that the Khan had written it himself. Then perhaps a dozen banners representing various fruits of the harvest were raised to great cheers and spontaneous dancing. I supposed it must have been a good harvest that year, but I really had no idea.

The day after the festival, Theodore (my brother) bid me farewell and returned home. Theodore (my cousin) joined me for the trip to the Ocelotl Ordu, since he also was to report there. He would be on the staff, of course, while I would be a mere soldier. Still, while we were off duty, we could fraternize. It was a pleasant trip up to the north end of the valley. The Ordu was near a small town called Tolcayuca, about 120 li from Tlatelolco. We could have made it in one day with a hard ride, but since we didn’t have to be there for two days, we took our time stopping frequently at small towns along the way and spending the night in a yam.

The yam was run by a middle-aged Tepaneca, who was delighted to have a son of the Khan as a guest. The other guests included a few of the usual mixed lot, but most were soldiers and some of my fellow trainees, all of whom were headed to the Ocelotl Ordu. Theodore was in his element, having a grand time trading jokes and stories with the others. I could see that he was really well liked by the men and had no trouble seeing why. The next morning, we looked like a jagun when we left the yam. A change came over Theodore. He rode at the head of a troop and suddenly was all business. I remained by his side and we talked occasionally, but it was clear he was in charge of this “troop” as though he was leading us into battle. I was impressed. We reached the Ordu by midday and were immediately organized and given assignments. I saw no more of Theodore for quite a while.

The new recruits were placed in a training group. First we were all evaluated as to our weapons skills on and off horseback. While I and the other former instructors were equally skilled both ways, most of the recruits were not. We who were skilled enough were immediately assigned to an arban, while the others were kept in the training group. In the arban, we learned all the maneuvers we used in battle, both on horseback and on foot. By the time of the New Year Festival, we were a formidable force. I was not surprised to find that the Ordu was not dismissed to celebrate Festivals, or anything else for that matter.

On the first day of the New Year Festival, I was on guard duty along the southbound road along with a few others of my group. A lone horseman approached us on the road and we rode out to meet him. He appeared to be a dispatch rider from the capital. He smiled at us when we reached him and asked if he had finally found the Ocelotl Ordu. We replied that he had and sent him on his way. I was a little puzzled that he would ask that since we had been here for a long time now and surely the capital knew where we were. I guessed that perhaps the rider was not familiar with the area and the message was of no consequence.

When we returned to camp after being relieved, we found it a hive of activity. It seemed the dispatch rider had brought us orders to ride north over the mountains to quell a revolt in Tulancingo. We were to leave at first light. That really surprised me and I sought out Theodore. He proved hard to find since he was very busy making preparations. When I finally caught up with him, he was glad to see me and gave me a letter that had come with the dispatch. I put the letter aside for later and explained my misgivings about the dispatch. He immediately saw my point and took me to the commander of the Ordu.

Baidar listened intently to me, then asked one of his staff if the dispatch rider was still in the camp. He was told that the rider was and Baidar asked that the rider be brought to him. Baidar sat down and wrote a note saying that he had received the orders and was on his way north. He told us to wait out of sight when the rider arrived. Baidar told the rider to take his message to the Khan at first light. The rider saluted and left. Baidar called us back and explained that he had to be sure there was something wrong with the order, so he would send a fast rider east to Tulancingo to see if there was any disturbance there. Meanwhile, he would send another man to follow the dispatch rider and see where he went. The Ordu would move north at first light as though the orders were genuine.

When I got back to my group, I had to scramble to get everything ready for the next morning. I forgot all about my letter. We were all up and mounted before the eastern sky began softening into dawn. We headed north while the dispatch rider and his shadow headed south. Tulancingo was only about 120 li away, but the terrain was so rugged, it would take us two days to reach it. The fast rider, however, would be there and back in a day if all was well. We moved along the road at a steady clip for as long as we could, but eventually, the road narrowed and became steeper. Dusk found us stretched out for about two li along the road just beyond Tezontepec. Late in the night, the fast rider arrived and reported to Baidar. The next morning, we reversed our path and picked up the pace. There was no trouble at all in Tulancingo.

I suddenly remembered my note and took it out to read. It was addressed to Oganaya and ordered me to make sure Theodore did not survive the excursion to Tulancingo. I was also to see that it took us a long time to return to the valley. I put the note away, deciding I would have to give it to George when I saw him. We burst out of the mountains in the late afternoon and by nightfall were well beyond our old camp.

The next morning it rained, making it an unpleasant ride, but Baidar was pleased, because it meant that our presence would not be obvious from afar. Near midday, the man we had sent to shadow the dispatch rider returned and reported that the rider had gone straight to the palace of Mocteuzoma, not that of the Khan. We picked up the pace and by late afternoon were approaching Tepeyac. Here we ran into a startled dispatch rider who was riding to call us to the capital. We galloped for the causeway to the city and our lead elements surprised the rebels who were moving to barricade it.
Baidar ordered us to fan out into the capital and wipe out any rebels we met. He and Theodore, with four jaguns, headed straight for the palace. When they arrived, they saw a remarkable sight. A force of several hundred Tenocha was battering the door to the palace when it was suddenly flung open and a sheet of continuous flame streamed out engulfing the attackers. Those not killed outright fled in panic only to be cut down mercilessly by the Ordu. George’s secret turned out to be a weapon once described in detail by my grandfather in one of his books. It looked like a wagon made of metal, out of which was pumped by hand, a flammable liquid that was ignited as it left the wagon. It was a devastating weapon.

My jagun was sent to the western part of Tlatelolco where we surprised small groups of pillaging Tenocha and put them to the sword. Eventually we worked our way to the causeway leading into Tenochtitlan. It had been fully barricaded and the drawbridge removed. This only delayed the inevitable, however. Armed volunteers from all the cities and towns around the lake swarmed into Tenochtitlan while the Ordu commandeered every boat available and soon had several pontoon bridges across the small canal. We rushed over the bridge nearest to us and fanned out all over the city cutting down anyone who stood against us. Finally the palace of Mocteuzoma was surrounded, rushed, and those not killed were bound and dragged through the streets to the palace of the Khan.

When the prisoners were presented at the palace, I happened to be there. I noticed among them none other that the man known to me as Ehecoatl. He was bloodied but not bowed. His eyes shot defiance at his captors. I heard that Mocteuzoma had died defending his palace, but his brother Tlacaelel had been captured trying to escape. I asked which he was and Ehecoatl was pointed out to me. I did not see Oztooa among the prisoners, but I did recognize one or two others that had been at his house. George came out of the palace and a roar went up from the palace guard with the beating of swords against shields. We were a little surprised at that since only the Khan was saluted in that way.

He stood at the top of the stairs and looked down in contempt at the prisoners. His face was twisted in disgust as he looked at each one in turn. Only Tlacaelel returned his look with as much or even more loathing. George did not flinch but met his look steadily. Finally he gave an order to his guards. A rope was put around Tlacaelel’s neck and he was dragged away. He was dragged behind a horse through all the streets of Tenochtitlan along with the body of his brother Mocteuzoma until there was little left of them, and that was burned and the ashes used for fertilizer. The rest were led away to be beheaded.

When all this was done, George summoned his brother and Baidar to join him. He spoke to both of them briefly. Theodore ran immediately into the palace. Baidar turned to us. He informed us that Khan Henry had been treacherously murdered and we would now acclaim the new Khan, George. We all dutifully beat our swords against our shields and shouted at the top of our lungs. George looked pleased by the salute. Baidar next ordered us to patrol the capital and make sure that the general pillaging going on in Tenochtitlan did not spread into Tlatelolco. We would not restore order on the other island for three days. After that, if any were still alive, we would protect them from further depredation.

I was a little shocked at the harshness of the sentence. I could see across the causeway that a lot of longstanding grudges against the Tenocha were being settled with interest. Any that tried to escape to Tlatelolco were turned back to meet their fate. I could not believe all the Tenocha were involved in the plot and thought the punishment much too harsh. Finally I was relieved and went to the old barracks that had been turned over to us as our camp. I just lied down as I was, too tired to clean myself up, and too sick at heart to eat a meal.

The next morning, I was awakened and told to report to the Khan immediately. I asked my commander if I should clean up first and he assured me that it would not be wise to keep the Khan waiting. I hurried over to the palace and presented myself at the door. I was waved in and, finding Tlauquechol, asked him where the Khan was since he had sent for me. He gave me another odd look, too odd to characterize, and sent me to the reception hall. In the hall, I found George seated in the Khan’s chair and conferring with Baidar. I approached and saluted. George eyed me coldly, but Baidar smiled when he saw me. I waited while they discussed the final details of the occupation of Tenochtitlan. I heard Baidar mention that the treasury of Mocteuzoma had been secured and was under strong guard until order was restored to the city. It would then be transported to the palace. When they finished talking, Baidar saluted and left. George eyed me silently for a while. Then he ordered the servants to leave the room. We were alone.

“Well, Cacalotl, you continue to surprise me. I am given to understand that you are the reason the Ordu arrived here so quickly. Did you recognize the false courier as one of your fellow conspirators?”

 

“No, sir. I merely thought it strange that a courier from the Khan would have trouble finding an Ordu that had not moved in months.”

 

“Very astute. So you really did abandon your little conspiracy?”

 

“Yes, sir. They sent me a note with the same courier, but I forgot about it until we were on our way back. When I read it, I thought it best if I give it to you. Here it is.” I handed him the note.

 

“Oganaya? Isn’t that a northern name?”

 

“It is Ani’ Yun’-wiya, sir. The name of a warrior I met who harbored misgivings about the Khanate. He was known to the man I knew as Ehecoatl who was the leader of the revolt.”

“Ehecoatl? I suppose that was Tlacaelel?”
“Yes, sir. He was pointed out to me yesterday and I recognized him.”

“You present me with a problem, Cousin. I was going to have you executed for treason once the revolt was launched, but there have been some complications. First of all, they made their move before I expected it; my informant was compromised and killed before he could tell me. Secondly, your repentance was obviously sincere and it is well known in the Ordu, thanks to my brother, that you saved us from a difficult situation. Finally, I owe your brother my life and he has had the temerity to remind me of the debt. Therefore, this is how we will handle the situation. You will be promoted to arban commander and be ‘allowed’ to immediately go on campaign in the Khanate of the Clouds. You will go alone and you will not dawdle about the countryside. You must present yourself in Tamalameque in one month. You will not return until and unless I specifically order you to do so. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”
“Good. Here is your insignia of rank.” He handed me a blue sash. “Now, get out of my sight.”

I quickly left by the door to the courtyard and hurried to the entrance hall. Tlauquechol congratulated me on my promotion as I left the palace and I thanked him. I returned to my unit and informed my commander of my “promotion” and “reassignment.” He nodded, although he seemed a bit puzzled. He told me to report to Baidar about my new assignment. I went and cleaned up first, since I knew there was no need to hurry yet and I was really filthy. Once clean, I presented myself to Baidar and told him of the Khan’s orders. He clapped me on the back and congratulated me on getting my much-wished-for assignment. He confided that George had told him how anxious I was to go on campaign. I thanked him and he gave me a pass to leave the city and orders to go to the Khanate of the Clouds on campaign. He told me to present the latter to the commander of the training Ordu on the plain, east of Tamalameque. I would be directed there from the capital. I mentioned that I was told it was southeast of the city, but he said it was moved every few years. I asked if I could visit Cuauhnahuac before I left, and he said I could.

I wrote a note to Theodore expressing my sorrow over the death of his father and explaining my “orders.” I told him I hoped to meet him in the Khanate of the Clouds the next year. I gave the note to a member of the staff and, mounting up, rode out of the city by the causeway to Tenayuca since Tenochtitlan was still off-limits. I rode until dark and found the same small yam where I had changed horses a few months ago. There was unseemly excitement about the sacking of Tenochtitlan among the guests. I was much clapped on the back and toasted as a member of the Ocelotl Ordu. I tried to be gracious, but retired early pleading pressing orders. They probably suspected I was going to arrest someone in Cuauhnahuac.

I left early and rode hard the rest of the way home. I arrived at midmorning to the usual shriek from Cuauhtzin. Theodore and Tetl came running out surprised that I would be home so soon. I explained what my orders were while fussing over Cuauhtzin. I told them all that had happened of which I was aware. I had no idea of how Khan Henry had died. I found out some time later that one of the servants had been a Tenocha spy. He was to have killed the guard and opened a side door to the conspirators. Since George had not heard from his spy in a few days, he doubled the guard and the servant was unable to carry out his assignment. He ran to the courtyard where he found Khan Henry and George talking and pulling out a knife, plunged it into the Khan and turned on George. The latter pulled out his sword (which he always carried) and made short work of the man. At least this was the official story. I found it odd that only George was present at the strategic moment and only he survived to tell the story. You would think he would have wanted to keep the man alive for questioning. Besides, I remembered the servant in question, and found it hard to believe he would have plunged a knife into anyone. But I have no proof.

I spent a pleasant two days with my brother, Tetl, and Cuauhtzin. I was quite sure I should not bring the latter with me. I didn’t want his life shortened on my account. Tetl promised to tell my father what happened when he returned and Theodore said he would go with me part of the way so he could visit Sarah and Tepeyolotl in Chalco before he returned north to his family. He also promised to visit me in the Khanate of the Clouds if he could. I should have been excited about going on campaign and seeing new things and places, but I wasn’t. It was too hard to forget what an idiot I had been and how I would not be allowed to return home because of it. Cuauhtzin’s plaintive wail as we left that morning perfectly echoed my feelings.

12
Trip to Tamalameque, 92 K
(North Central Colombia, 1460)

Theodore and I rode at a fairly good clip and were near Xochimilco when it grew dark. We stopped at a yam for the night. There was still a lot of excitement and pleasure among the patrons over the fate of the Tenocha, but there was already some grumbling that the Ordu had ended the plundering rather roughly. This time I was given a few dirty looks instead of claps on the back. We turned in early and left at first light. We arrived at the outskirts of Chalco near midday. I bid Theodore farewell and asked him to greet Sarah and her family for me as well as his own family when he finally reached them. I hurried on, stopping briefly near Amecameca to exchange horses for the ride over the trail between the two volcanoes, Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl. There was snow in the pass and it was quite a cold run from tree line to tree line. It was fully dark when I reached the yam where I had encountered Aztahua the year before and been guided to the revolution. I was not surprised to find he was no longer there. I asked the new proprietor, an Otomi, what had happened to him. The proprietor said that his employer, the new Khan, had recalled Aztahua to the capital. If it was possible, I felt even more foolish.

I left early the next morning, determined to make the best possible time down to the coast so I would be able to take a little more time going through places new to me. By riding hard and changing horses frequently, I was able to reach Cempoalla in four days. Once I reached the coast, the terrain was much easier and the roads better, enabling me to make it to Coatzacoalcos in two days. One more day of hard riding got me to Xicalanco by the late afternoon. This was the seat of the governors of the Maya lands and I decided to look up the governor and see if Tlapac had returned home from the north.

The governor’s palace was rather modest—little more than a large house. When I presented myself at the door, the guard saluted me and ushered me in the door. Once inside the palace, I announced myself to a servant who went to alert the governor. Looking around, I could see that the palace was a miniature version of the palace of the Khan of Anahuac with a small courtyard in the middle and only one story surrounding it. Amazingly, there were even statues of each of the governors. I studied the representation of the fabled Smoking Mirror, my grandfather’s friend. It must have been done late in his life, for he looked tired. Still, he had a good, strong face without coldness or meanness. I wondered how good a likeness it was. As I studied it, a voice broke into my reverie.

“I always try to live up to his example. It is no easy task. I am Chlalcoatl, the governor.”
“I am Cacalotl, son of John the Healer. It is an honor for you to receive me.”
“There is nothing my grandfather would not have done for yours. How can I serve you?”

“You are too kind, sir. I am on my way to the Khanate of the Clouds to campaign and thought I’d stop by and see if your son, Tlapac, was here so we could renew our acquaintance.”

 

“He wrote to me of you. He was most impressed with you and will be sorry to have missed you. He won’t be back for a few weeks and I can’t imagine you’d want to wait.”

 

“I can’t, I’m afraid, I must report to the training Ordu in just over two weeks.”

“Well, perhaps I can help you after all. There is a merchant leaving by boat to Xaymaca tomorrow. He can take you with him and, once there, you can catch a ride on one of the Koryo ships to the Khanate of the Clouds. You will never make it by land in two or three weeks.”

“That is most kind. Are you sure the merchant won’t mind?”

“It is not his place to mind. You are an officer in the Khan’s army. It is an honor for him to take you. Come, you will join me for dinner and spend the night here. I’ll send a message to the merchant and he will call for you in the morning.”

He guided me to the bath, subtly reminding me of my current state of disarray after my hard riding, left me in the hands of some servants, and withdrew to send the note to the merchant. I handed over my clothes to be washed and vigorously cleaned myself. When I was done, I was given some loose, cool garments to wear. I was led to the dining room and Chlalcoatl introduced me to his wife Ix Ykoki (a Maya), his daughters, Atototl (about fifteen years old), and Cuiauhxochitl (about thirteen), and his other son, Tlilatl (about ten). There were also a few guests who were mostly local merchants. Not surprisingly most of the dinner conversation revolved around the abortive revolution of the Tenocha and the accession of the new Khan. I only offered the official version of events, in no way alluding to my role, and gave only politic, noncommittal opinions of the new Khan. I had learned. I was excused early since I had to get up with the dawn the next day. My room for the night was much more modest than the one in the Khan’s palace and the bed was a sort of netting suspended between two walls, the hamaca my grandfather had grown to really enjoy. I could see why; it was quite comfortable.

I rose early and found my uniform all clean and folded up for me. I dressed quickly and left the room. A waiting servant guided me to the kitchen and served me a light meal. I was waiting outside the door of the palace when the merchant presented himself with a long-suffering look to pick up his passenger. When I informed him I was his passenger, he blanched and stammered his insincere apology. I waved it off and followed him to the harbor.

The harbor was quite large and all of dressed stone. It was really very full of boats, all of which looked the same. The merchant, a Putun Maya with a Nahual name, Cipactli, guided me easily and surely to his boat. It, like all the others, was a dugout canoe, fashioned from a very large tree. It was about forty-five feet long and eight feet wide. At its center was a covered area under which was all the merchandise he was carrying. Spread out on either side of the covered area were thirty rowers both sitting and standing, paddles in hand, waiting for our arrival. As soon as we stepped on board, their paddles dipped into the water in unison and off we went.

Cipactli was carefully looking over his goods, so I kept out of his way to one side, near the rear of the covered portion, thus enjoying some shade. We stayed in the lagoon, just offshore the long barrier island until we reached its end; then we turned into the channel and put out to sea. We went out far enough to avoid any surf (not that there was much) and yet stayed well within sight of land. Near midday, the rowers paused in shifts to eat a very light meal. I wondered that they were able to row all day on such fare, but that night, when we put into shore at a seaside village, they were given a good meal. I ate modestly and offered to help guard the boat that night. This pleased Cipactli and he warmed up considerably. The next morning, the rowers were again fed quite well (although everything was cold leftovers from the night before). We set off again as soon as it was light enough to see.

Cipactli became quite loquacious that day. He chatted at length about things that meant nothing to me. He told me about various merchants he didn’t trust, where one might find the best prices for skins, feathers, chocolatl beans, etc., how the rainy season had lasted longer than usual this year and delayed him at least a week, how hard it was to find good rowers and reliable help, how worried he was that the market in Xaymaca was already flooded with the goods he was bringing, and he might be wiped out. He was a crashing bore. When he finally ran out of blather, I asked about our route to Xaymaca. He explained that we would hug the coast of Uluumil Kutz, stopping briefly at a few of the larger towns to trade, until we reached the large island off the eastern coast, Cozumel. We would rest there for a day while he consulted with the chilan (seer) who would tell him if his crossing to Cuba would be safe. Then, if all was well, we would cross to Cuba and hug its southern coast until we reached the large peninsula near its eastern end, at which point we would sail south to Xaymaca. After that he would turn southwest and reach the coast of the mainland near the lands of the Paya. He would then follow the coast westward back to Xicalanco.

Actually, this trip was quite boring as far as scenery goes also. After the first day or so, we ran out of jungle and from then on, all one could see on the shore was endless dry shrub land. It was hard to believe anyone lived there, but we passed many small villages and every night we put into one all along the coast. I tried to mingle a little in the villages, but my height, strange appearance, and uniform tended to put the locals off. Only in one village was there a difference. We were almost halfway along the northern coast when we put unto it. It was called Dzilam. There I was greeted by a middle-aged man with some frightful scars on his face and arms. He introduced himself to me as Ah Chel, just recently returned from campaign in the Khanate of the Clouds. Not surprisingly, my father had saved him some years before. I asked if it was when he got his scars.

“Oh no, young sir, that was much later. I wish he had been with us then, I would not look so repulsive. I heard he was quite skilled in preventing scars also. But he saved me from a fever.”

I was beginning to think my father’s expertise lay in curing fevers, but was interested to hear that he was able to prevent scarring. I hadn’t known that. It would seem I would have to learn about him from others, or learn the right questions to ask him when next I saw him. I can’t say I was looking forward to seeing him again since my recent debacle in Anahuac. Anyway, Ah Chel was a cheerful diversion. He even joined me for my guard duty. He told me which commanders to avoid (as if that was up to me) and which to seek out. He warned me to be diligent in the training Ordu, for the commander of it was quite a martinet. He also gave me the names of some of his friends that I could count on should I run into them and even told me the best place to go in Xaymaca should I have need of a woman and a good meal. I thanked him for all his advice and promised to greet any of his friends that I might meet. He told me to save some of the enemy for him since he would be back in a year.

He was a pleasant fellow, but the only such one I encountered until we reached Cozumel. The town we sought was near the southwest end of the island. We reached the town in the late afternoon and put in to the port. Cipactli ran off to look up his seer and check out the market. I got out and walked around the dock a little. The men secured the boat and started fixing their evening meal. As I walked along, I came upon an old man with a big smile on his face, sitting down on the dock, dangling his feet over the side, and staring absently out to sea. Intrigued at finding a happy Maya, I greeted him. He invited me to join him.

“Forgive me if my Nahual is not very good. My name is Ah Poot. I was just sitting here looking at my mistress and very much enjoying the sight. Is she not beautiful?”

“There is no one in that direction, sir.”
“Of course there is, young man, right before you. Open your eyes.”
“You mean the sea?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Are you a fisherman?”
“I am. And one of the best, thanks to my mistress.”
“It is an honor to meet you, then.”
“That is most kind of you, young man. You must join me for dinner.”

He jumped up with more vigor than I would have expected and, taking my arm, propelled me down a side street past a line of rather rude houses to a ramshackle hut that was in serious disrepair. He was not at all concerned with the condition of the hut, but went right in and began to stoke up the fire and ready a large fish to cook. The fish was cleaned, cut up the middle, and spread out on a stick frame with the skin away from the fire. It cooked quite quickly and he served it with tlaxcalli breads and a fiery sauce he had stored in an old jar. It was delicious. While we ate, he rhapsodized on the sea and all his wonderful times there. I asked him if he could tell if there would be a storm out at sea.

“Of course, my mistress always reveals her moods to me. I wouldn’t dream of disturbing her when she and the wind are in the throws of passion; it would be unseemly.”

I had never heard a storm described that way before. I told him that we would be going to Cuba in a day and asked if the passage would be safe. He smiled and said not to worry; the wind would not be in the area for at least a week. That was a relief, as I did not relish being out on the open ocean in a storm. I had a lot more faith in an experienced fisherman than any sort of seer. I asked him if he had a family. Since his name was Ah rather than Na, he was likely a widower.

“Oh yes, young sir. I have three sons and four daughters. All are married and have families of their own. One of my sons lives nearby as do two of my daughters.”

 

“Why do you not stay with them?”

 

“I like the way I live. I would not enjoy sitting in a corner of one of my children’s house waiting to die. When it is time for me to die, I will go out to my mistress and she will take me.”

“You wish to die at sea?”
“It is only fair. All my life I have taken my sustenance from the sea. In death I should return something to her.” “It sounds like a lonely death.”
“How can you be lonely when you are with your mistress.”
“Tell me Ah Poot, why are you such a happy man?”

“I am in good health, at peace with my family and my neighbors, and everyday get to visit my mistress who gives me her bounty to take care of all my needs. Who would not be happy?”

 

“But most of your people seem rather dour or sober and you seem to always smile.”

 

“Many people have many concerns to keep them from being happy. I have none. You do not seem to be happy, my son.”

 

“It is hard to rejoice when you find out you are a fool.”

 

“But you are young, it is the time for foolishness. I was a proper fool at your age. Wisdom must be sought, earned; it does not fall out of the sky.”

 

“You are most kind. But my stupidity is at least partially responsible for some deaths and the replacement of a good man by an evil one. And, I am now on my way to an indefinite exile.”

“Some foolishness has greater consequences than others. Bear your troubles with courage and strive to do better. It is all you can do. In time, you may be allowed to return. Just as evil men replace good ones, so also, good ones replace evil ones. As to the deaths, we all eventually die and who can say anyone is to blame or that death is such a bad thing. I have no fear of it.”

“Really?”
“Yes. I feel I will become a part of my mistress and always be with her from that moment on.” “You don’t believe you will wander about in Xibalba (the Maya underworld) after you die?”

“No. My mistress will not allow her lover to thrash around in a dark cave. She will accept me and I will become one with her.”

I thanked him for his hospitality and encouragement and offered to return the next day and help him repair his house. But he wouldn’t hear of it. He urged me to look about on the island and enjoy its beauty while he was out fishing, then rejoin him the next evening for dinner. I returned to the boat and took my turn at guard. The old man had cheered me up considerably and I looked forward to seeing him the next evening. From his rhapsodizing about his “mistress” I had to assume he had not had a good marriage. Of course, it would have been rude to ask about it.

Cipactli had received good news from his seer and was in a fine mood the next morning. He told me we would stay on the island another day and leave in the morning, so I was free to wander about as I wished. I put on some loose cotton clothes and walked along the dock again and then continued on walking along the shore. I found a fairly secluded stretch of beach on the eastern shore of the island and stripped down and enjoyed bathing in the surf for a while. Then I went inland a bit and found a pond of fresh water. I rinsed myself off, washed out my clothes, and set them in the sun to dry while I sat in the shade. Once they were dry, I put them on and continued north along the eastern shore for a short distance. It was getting quite hot in spite of the breeze, so as soon as I saw a decent trail inland, I took it. It took a couple of hours to traverse the island and while there was plenty of shade, there was no breeze and myriad insects. It was a most miserable walk. When I regained the town, I went to the market and paid for a bath. The people who ran the bath offered to wash out my clothes and give me something for my insect bites. I accepted gratefully. When I finished cleaning up, I put on my still-wet clothes and wandered about the market a little. There was quite a variety of goods available even though it was not a large market. I picked up some fresh fruit to share with my fisherman friend.

I found him in the same place as the day before wearing the same big smile. He greeted me warmly as soon as he saw me and led the way to his hovel. He fixed fish again and we ate it as well as some of the fruit I had bought. I told him about my wanderings of the day and he spoke of his catch. Finally it was time to part and I thanked him again for his advice and his cheer as well as his hospitality. He shrugged it off.

“If I have given you some comfort, I am glad. Let me give you some more. I spoke to my mistress about you. She told me she would watch out for you and no harm would come to you while you are in her care.”

I thanked him again and asked him to thank “his mistress” for her kindness to me. As I left, I was sorry I would not see the old man again. He was right, though, I have never been in any danger while on the sea. I remember also thinking that this man had been kind and generous with me even though he didn’t know me and wasn’t in debt to my father. I hoped there would be more such as him in the world.

The following morning we left at first light. We retraced our path along the shore as far as a tiny island just off the northeastern tip of the Uluumil Kutz peninsula, and then we turned out into the open ocean toward Cuba. The men took turns rowing and resting day and night until we reached the coast of Cuba. I was told that the current was pushing us north, so we had to row south of east. We headed right for shore and rested up a day, then continued along the coast of the big island, stopping to trade at some of the larger towns until we reached the peninsula that pointed west. We spent the night on shore near its tip, then set out at first light due south into the open ocean. This time the current pushed us first east along the coast of Cuba, then west as we neared the mountainous island of Xaymaca. We arrived at a fine port on the northwestern part of the island. As we approached the shore, I could see some of the large Koryo ships anchored out in the bay. We rowed fairly near one of them and I could see that it dwarfed the merchant dugout.

When we reached the dock, I thanked Cipactli and wished him great success in the market. I then went into the town and looked for the governor. I learned that the governor was in a town inland, but there was an official in charge of the port. I got directions to his house. He turned out to be a retired minghan commander, a Dzitsiista named Hishkowits. He proved to be related to my sister-in-law, Mahwissa, Theodore’s wife. He was a tall, powerfully built man, perhaps fifty years old. He was most cordial and assured me he could get me passage on the next Koryo ship that was headed to the Khanate of the Clouds. Meanwhile, he prevailed on me to stay and tell him what was going on in Anahuac, since there had been many rumors lately. I gave him the official version, but I did add a few details about the crushing of the revolt by the Ordu. He pressed me for my role in the fight, since it was obvious to him I was too young to have any rank. I had to tell him about my promotion, although I tried to make little of it. He chided me.

“Do not be self-conscious of your accomplishments. It is not arrogant to recount them with pride. It is arrogant to think you need accomplish no more. Retell your deed simply and directly and make sure it isn’t the only deed you have to tell.”
Hishkowits urged me to enjoy the island for a few days while waiting for the next ship. I took one of his horses and rode into the interior of the island along a small river that emptied into the bay. It proved to be a beautiful ride. There were streams, pools and waterfalls, rolling hills and mountains, tall trees, fruit trees, bushes, and flowers, and wonderful, friendly people. When I returned, I congratulated Hishkowits on his posting. He laughed and agreed that it was worth all the misery of thirty years of campaigning in the Khanate of the Green Mist. I tried to ask about the campaigns, but he was always quick to change the subject. After a few memorable days, I was rowed out to one of the Koryo ships in the bay.

I scrambled up the side of the ship and was greeted by its master, Kang Son. He was of Koryo ancestry, but had been born in the Koryo settlement on the bay near the mouth of the Albayamule River. I noticed that about half of the large (two hundred men) crew was also Koryo; the rest seemed to be from the Southeastern Cities with perhaps a scattering of Timacua and Pansfalaya. There were also a few mixed bloods. Kang Son graciously showed me around his ship. It was about four hundred feet long and perhaps fifty feet wide amidships. There were six masts, two that could be removed in bad weather. The sails were made of slatted canes that could be reefed in horizontal folds. There were also large oars that could be used when the wind failed. Four anchors were attached to the truncated bow. The cargo hold consisted of twelve watertight compartments, so that most of the cargo could be saved in the event of a breech in the hull. It was steered by a central sternpost rudder that the crew adjusted by means of a large lever on a lower deck. The middle deck had the living quarters of the crew and any passengers. There were also tubs in which fresh vegetables and herbs were grown and pens with various animals for the table, although the cargo holds contained both grain and dried meat or smoked fish as well as trade goods.

It seemed I would not be the only soldier aboard. There were about a hundred others who were on their way to the southern campaigns. Kang Son told me that he and the other Koryo captains had agreed to transport and feed all the soldiers in return for a monopoly on all trade between the Khanate of the Blue Sky and the two southern Khanates. He did not appear to be put out by the bargain, but rather mentioned it with satisfaction. I asked if he ever sailed along the eastern coast of Khanate of the Blue Sky. He had not, although some of the others had. There was a strong northward flowing current off the east coast, and some dangerous shoals that had not been fully mapped. However, he had heard that there was a plan to build a settlement in the Great Bay that would build ships to ply the eastern coast.

Kang Son returned to his duties and I became acquainted with some of my fellow passengers. I only befriended two of them, Buzwaewae, an Anishinabe, and Sikopitai, a Siksika. Both were several years older than me and were of my same rank, arban commander. They were also both very tall, towering over the Koryo and most of the others on board. We seemed to hit it off immediately and became fast friends. Both of them had been on campaign in the Khanate of the Green Mist for four years where they earned their promotions, had returned home, and wandered about for couple of years, ran into each other and decided to try campaigning in the Khanate of the Clouds, since they had heard rumors that the next campaign would be against a great empire, instead of the endless small tribes in the Green Mist. I had not heard anything of an empire in the southern landmass and asked them about it.

They told me that there was a tribe along the coast just south of the Khanate’s border called the Chimu. They had many great cities and a large army. I told them that I had heard they were at least organized, but no one ever told me they were a “great empire.” They suggested that perhaps it was just a rumor spread to secure more recruits after that last miserable campaign in the jungles east of the great mountains. I told them what I had learned of that campaign from Tathtowe and mentioned that we might meet him, since he had said he would likely return for campaign against the Chimu. I also shared what I had heard from Ah Chel. They told me a little of their experiences, but they had no idea of the big picture, only of their own small parts and, frankly, the telling was rather confusing.

We left the port the day after I boarded. The crew used the huge oars to pull away from the shore; then the sails were raised and we headed west, then south around the end of the island. Then we seemed to be aiming east of south since the winds and current tended toward the west. It was amazing how stable the large ship was compared to the small merchant boat that had brought me to Xaymaca. There was some motion of course, but we were not buffeted by every little passing wave. After several days of very smooth sailing, we could see the mountains of the Tairona take shape and grow in the southeast. We steered away from them aiming instead for the mouth of the Yuma River. We sailed up the river a short distance to the bustling new port called Yumabalikh on the western bank, where we debarked.

A representative of Khan George (of the Khanate of the Clouds) was there to meet us. He welcomed us effusively and led us to a large house where we were given a big meal and allowed to relax until the next day. In the morning, he returned with enough horses for all of us. We mounted up and he led us south along first the west bank of the river until nightfall; then we crossed a large pontoon bridge to the east bank, spending the night near a small town before continuing up the river the next day along the east bank. We rode along at a good easy pace on excellent wide roads made of crushed rock pressed into the soil, and camping at night at special sites near yams. The road occasionally left the river because of very marshy areas or to avoid some of the river’s more capricious meanderings. The vegetation changed from scrub to marsh to jungle to forest to grassland as we followed the river upstream first south then southeast, then south again, finally reaching Tamalameque on the sixth day. We rode through the city, which was very large, larger than Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlan together, and spread out toward the northeast from the east bank of the river in the midst of an extensive grassland dotted with lakes. We stopped at a large military camp several li east of the city, in the midst of a prairie along a small river. To the east were the sheer massifs of the mountains filling the horizon as far as we could see. Here we were turned over to the camp commander, Cuauhpopoca.

It was a Nahual name, but he didn’t look like he was from Anahuac. As it happened, he was from a people called Sinu. They had surrendered quickly on the very first campaign by my uncle George. I was surprised that someone from such an unwarlike people would have risen to such rank. He was every inch the commander, however. He nodded at and dismissed our guide, then ordered us to dismount and corral the horses, then return. We quickly complied and he looked us all over with a most unfriendly scowl. When he finished, he ordered us to run to the eastern edge of Tamalameque and back in an hour. If we were not back in an hour, we would not eat dinner. He then went on to describe the welcoming banquet he was having prepared for us. It sounded unbelievable. It was.

After weeks of travel and six days of riding, we were all tired and some of the men were not in very good shape. Still we all ran out of the camp in good order. Before we reached the city we had spread out considerably. I was quite pleased to see that all my “little war” practice had paid off and I was with the small group in the lead, as were my two friends, Sikopitai and Buzwaewae. On the way back it was apparent that some of the men were in very poor shape. Some were walking and some were sitting by the side of the road gasping. About half of us made it back in the allotted time, but the “banquet” turned out to be a very ordinary soup and some of the local bread. True to his word, none of those who arrived back even slightly late were fed that night. Ah Chel had warned me.

13
Training and Campaign, 93 K
(North Central Colombia to Northwest Peru, 1461)

Cuauhpopoca called us together the next morning after a cold but substantial breakfast. He explained that he was fully aware we were all quite skilled with the various weapons of the Ordu, so he had no intention of wasting anyone’s time repeating the training we had already received. What he planned to do was enable us to keep up with the other tumen on campaign in a terrain not necessarily familiar to us. To that end, we would have to be able to march and ride long distances through the jungle, up the mountains, through the high mountain basins, and along the harsh, dry shore. We would have to do this with minimal water and food, and after a long, hard march or ride, we would have to be able to fight in hand-to-hand combat. Not that any such situations were likely to arise, but if they did, we would have to be ready.

When he finished addressing the whole group, he called out the officers and talked to us apart. He explained that as we knew, we were responsible for the men under our command. Therefore, we would be assigned our subordinates and would have to see that they completed the ordered exercises in the allotted time or join them in their punishment. The standard punishment would be no dinner (the only hot meal of the day). He would give us about a week to whip our men into physical shape. In our group there were ninety-three soldiers, six arban commanders, two jagun commanders, and one minghan commander. Cuauhpopoca put the minghan commander, a Matlatzinca from Tecaxic named Michpili, in charge of organizing us any way he saw fit.

Michpili was a grizzled, old veteran who had kept to himself during the trip here and whose forbidding aspect caused the rest of us to give him wide berth. He proceeded to show us how he had earned his rank. He announced that since there was almost a hundred men in our group, he would demote himself to jagun commander for training purposes. The arban commanders would each be assigned ten men, and the jagun commanders would get eleven men and, if it made them feel better, could call themselves arban neg (eleven) commanders for training purposes. He reminded us that our performance on the run of the night before had shown clearly that too many of the men were out of shape. He had developed a fondness for eating dinner and had no intention of letting anyone cause him to miss it. Therefore, we would be whipped into shape this week or die.

It was a brutal week. Michpili ran us ragged every day and every evening we had to run from the camp to the eastern edge of Tamalameque and back in an hour. It was only about nine li each way but after all the forced marches, hard rides, infiltration maneuvers, and long swims, it was not easy. To make it worse, it wasn’t enough that I could make it; I had to make sure my ten men made it. This required me running behind them and urging them on at first with words of encouragement, but eventually with the tip of a spear. By the end of the week, my command hated me, but had no trouble making the run. I noticed that most of the other arban commanders resorted to the same tactics with similar success. Michpili was pleased with our results and almost smiled.

Things did not get easier when we returned under Cuauhpopoca’s thumb. He added us to the rest of his training Ordu as a distinct unit, maintaining our current organization. Now our misery would have a lot of company, for there were about twenty thousand or the equivalent of two tumen in training. From time to time, a jagun or a minghan would be deemed ready and sent on to the forward staging area. Meanwhile, fresh recruits arrived almost every week, usually in a group of a hundred or so, but occasionally there would be a larger group. Just before my jagun left, a group of five thousand arrived.

Our “exercises” proved to be brutal marches toward objectives some distances away. At first there seemed to be an attempt to give us a taste of only one type of terrain at a time, but that did not last long. Our first task was a march on foot 250 li up the Yuma River and back. It was a fairly level march, but even though this was the dry season, it was very muddy and most of us made use of the river at the end of each day’s march. When we arrived back at the training camp, we were given wooden swords with red paint and split into two groups for a pitched battle. The paint would indicate who was “killed” in action. Thanks to my training with my cousin, Theodore, I proved very hard to “kill.”

The second task was an infiltrative march through the jungle to a small hill about 225 li north-northeast of the camp. We were to arrive at the bottom of the hill from all sides simultaneously at dusk in five days without any of the “enemy” (a few dozen specially trained scouts) detecting our presence. I am pleased to report my group was among the few that made it. Most of the others were detected and turned back. Our reward was another mock battle to take the hill. I was “killed” in that action. Some sneak got me in the back while I was dispatching someone else.

The rest of the “exercises” tend to blur in memory, but a few of the worst included a 150 li march over the mountain chain east of the camp to a spot on the other side and a pitched battle, a 270 li march due west from the camp across the Yuma, through a jungle over some low hills across a maze of lakes, rivers, and swampy grassland with patches of forest or jungle to an island in the middle of a lake and another battle and finally, the worst, a 600 li ride to the coast and a “battle” followed by a 360 li march along the coast through sand dunes, dry, thorny scrub, jungle, and finally, the edge of the Tairona Mountains to reach a Putun trading settlement and another “battle.” Then we returned by crossing the Tairona Range from its northwestern edge to its southeastern terminus (some 240 li) and two “battles,” one among the highest peaks and another at the end, where we met our horses for the ride back. We were actually allowed to rest a couple of days after this “campaign.”

By late summer, my jagun was deemed sufficiently trained, and we were mounted up, loaded with provisions, and unceremoniously sent south with maps, but no guides. Michpili was not at all put out but merely led us out of the camp and turned us south. Except that we used the roads, this was very much like another “exercise.” He drove us hard necessitating our using all four of our horses each day. As we went up the Yuma Valley, the mountains on either side of us gradually closed in and the road began to climb. Eventually, mountains loomed in front of us, and we turned west between a high mountain and a higher volcano to pick our way through a treacherous pass which took us above the tree line for a very cold while and then back down to another valley, which we also followed south. All along our route we would only stop at supply depots that were strategically placed along the way about a hard day’s ride apart. We never entered any of the towns or villages along the way. I thought that odd, but didn’t feel comfortable enough to ask Michpili about it, and Buzwaewae and Sikopitai had no idea why. Eventually, I found out that the road we followed was called the military road and was purposely routed away from all the towns and villages, although branch roads connected them to it. This was for purely practical reasons so that the army could reach its objective without any distractions.

Eventually our new valley also ended in mountains and we picked our way through another brutal pass that led us to a narrow valley that soon joined a broader one whose river flowed northwest. We crossed the river and continued up a branch valley and another pass that brought us to what was pointed out as the ruins of Cayambe, the town destroyed by the forces of which Necowee had been a part. It was hard to tell there had been anything there—it was now just a grassy knoll. We continued retracing Necowee’s journey except for the battles or the people, since the road still avoided all the towns and villages. We would occasionally pass a merchant caravan, or a few individual travelers. I noticed that Michpili had eased off on the pace once we reached the high valleys and it was a good thing. It was very tiring there for both men and horses. Of course, the depots were closer together also.

Finally after passing through the land of the Canari we left the military road, turning southwest and following a river valley down toward the coast. Before we reached the coast, however, we turned south and arrived, in what should have been near mid fall, at the huge camp that was our staging area. It proved to be in a cul-de-sac open to the north and formed by hills not sixty li from the coast. It was a little dry for autumn and warm, but not hot. The vegetation was mostly scrub, but there was enough fodder for the horses. True to the old Mongol ways, crops (mostly for the horses) had been planted on the abandoned fields on the south side of the surrounding hills along a stream and were already harvested. It seemed that, in this area, there was only enough water for planting during what we would consider winter.

Michpili presented himself to the commander of the expedition, Khan George’s oldest son, Henry. Henry, a short, solid man with a perpetual frown, did not even look us over, but turned us over to his staff to disburse. We were spread around as needed. I ended up in a tumen made up mostly of Maya. Knowing their usual mission, I began to think I was being set up, but I didn’t know the man who sent me here and he didn’t know me. Still, I was not exactly pleased. The commander of the tumen was a Hotcangara (of all things) named Hayjaay. He had taken on the dour aspect of the Maya and was just as taciturn. The commander of my minghan was a Mixteca named Suchix. He was very intense and thoughtful. I had the feeling he would not make any rash mistakes. The commander of my jagun was Ah Tutal, a Maya. He was characteristically sour until I gave him Ah Chel’s greetings (he had been one of the people the latter had told me to look up). He then became my best friend, going out of his way to be kind. He was delighted to hear that Ah Chel would be joining us eventually.

There were five tumen in the staging area and a sixth was still being put together. Once it was complete, we would move out. Among the other tumen was the one commanded by Acapipioltzin. I made no attempt to renew our acquaintance because of the disparity in our rank, but he noticed me sticking out like a banner among the much shorter Maya in my jagun and sought me out to ask me about the Tenocha revolt. He also asked if I wanted him to get me transferred to his tumen, but I demurred, thinking it would be an insult to my new commanders. He wished me well on the campaign and mentioned that my cousin Theodore would likely get here before we started. I wasn’t sure I wanted to renew that acquaintance either since I felt responsible for his father’s death. I would have to, however; one can’t avoid one’s relatives, especially when one is so easy to spot in a crowd of short Maya. Anyway, I really liked him and suspected George would not have told him about my “involvement” in the revolution.

While we waited, I found that Michpili was given command of a minghan under the command of Henry’s younger brother, Ignace. Sikopitai was also under Ignace but in a different minghan. Buzwaewae was in a different tumen, under command of Essabo, from one of the Southeastern Cities. We spent most of our time in further training, but we were able to spend a little time on our own. I rode to the coast with Sikopitai and Buzwaewae on one occasion, but found it to be a mangrove swamp. We were ordered to stay away from the towns and villages when we were on leave. Supposedly, this was to prevent the Chimu from knowing about our attack before it happened. I would have been rather surprised if they weren’t well aware of our presence near their border in such force. I suspected there was some other motive for keeping us away from the locals. But then I had become very suspicious.

By late “autumn” enough trained men had come in to form the sixth tumen including my cousin Theodore and Ah Chel. The latter was shunted immediately to our tumen where he was assigned to our jagun but not my arban. He enthusiastically clapped me on the back and congratulated me for my “luck” at being assigned to the Maya tumen. Oddly enough, he was not being facetious. Theodore spotted me when our tumen was marching back from a short training exercise. As I mentioned before, it would have been hard for him not to spot me towering in a sea of Maya. He also offered to have me transferred to his tumen, but again I refused and he nodded approvingly. I asked after his mother and sister.

“Mother is adjusting, but she spends a lot of time in Texcoco now with her brother’s family. Christina is often with her. George has still not moved into father’s room. He said he would wait until he has married. That should be soon now, in the winter.”

“Really? Who?”

“An odd choice. Her name is Chabi; she is the daughter of the Khakhan. No one in our family has ever married into the family of the Khakhan. George has never even met or seen her, but he was going to Khanbalikh this fall to marry her. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing, but I don’t.”

Much as I liked Theodore, I could see that he had no guile in him. It was obvious that George wanted to cement relations with the Khakhan and saw this as a golden opportunity to do so. I rather felt sorry for Chabi (very misplaced sentiments as it turned out), but said nothing along those lines. I just murmured the usual banalities one is expected to say at such times. Instead of pursuing family business any further, I asked Theodore when he thought we would move on the enemy. He quickly warmed up to that topic.

“Actually we should be on our way in two days. The spies have returned, and not only are the Chimu unaware of our intentions, they are not even close enough to detect them. The northern part of their territory is mostly a desert except for the river valleys and they communicate with the northernmost of the valleys only by sea. We are only sending one tumen against those smaller settlements. The rest of us will proceed along the mountains until we are below the desert; then we will swoop down on them from the mountains in three places along the river valleys that flow from the mountains to the sea. All of their cities are along these valleys. We haven’t made the assignments yet, so I don’t know where you’ll be going. We’ll be divided into Ordu of two tumen each except for the coastal tumen and the tumen that will attack just below the desert. It will wait after clearing the valley until it is joined by the coastal tumen. After each Ordu clears its valley, it will proceed south until all the Chimu land is taken.”

“What about the people in the mountains on the way?”

“Oh, they will be allowed to join us or fight us as they wish. It should help to throw off the Chimu even more about our intentions. Of course, we will not be finished once we have conquered the Chimu; we also have to conquer all the mountains east of the Chimu.”

“Isn’t that a lot of territory for one campaign season?”

“I don’t know. It depends on what we run into. New tumen will be sent down to join or relieve us, as they are ready. If necessary, we will continue for more campaign seasons. Our cousin Khan George wants to conquer all the mountains and coast in his lifetime and plans to campaign until he has.”

“Or rather have his sons campaign until he has.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’ll join us for part of the campaign. His sons think he will be with us to take the surrender of the Chimu ruler.”

I was angry with myself for letting that remark slip out about our mutual cousin, the local Khan. If I had said that in front of anyone else, I could find myself in more trouble. Sarcasm would be the death of me one day. Theodore asked me if I wanted to be introduced to our cousins Henry and Ignace, but I demurred thinking it best to stay away from the commanders.

True to Theodore’s word, we set out the second day. The tumen under Essabo was sent southwest to the coast; the rest of us turned southeast and began to wind our way up into the mountains again. As we moved away from the coast, we found ourselves in something of a humid forest, which, as we climbed higher, gave way to a drier forest, large patches of which had been cleared for cultivation. We regained the military road and followed it south until its end near a small town belonging to a people called the Calua. The town leaders took one look at the five tumen on their doorstep and surrendered without any hesitation. We pressed them to give us guides to lead us to the other tribal towns and split into smaller groups to visit them all. None of them resisted joining us. We set up a new staging area and depot at the end of the military road and sent word north to send our supplies there.

The next tribe we encountered was the Ayawak’a. They had larger villages and were a larger tribe, but were also not inclined to resist us. We again split up to ensure the lack of resistance was shared by all their towns and villages. It was. It seemed that both tribes had fully expected us to come and, having heard what happened to those who resisted us in the north, had decided not to ask for trouble. They both contributed a small number of auxiliary troops that were used mostly to bring up supplies from our staging area depot.

The next tribe we came upon was the Wan-ka-pampa. We were warned to expect trouble from them since they were known to be constantly fighting among themselves. The first town we encountered did not resist, but rather the chief tried to recruit us to destroy their neighboring town. Henry refused, but promised to wipe them out should they refuse to join. Delighted, he offered to send a messenger to demand their surrender to us. Again Henry refused, but did request guides to lead them to the other tribal towns and villages. These were quickly produced and we split into minghans to visit them. My minghan visited a rather large town some distance south of the town. We fanned out to form a semicircle north of the town while the guide was sent in to tell the chieftain he would have to join the Khanate. The guide returned hurriedly to announce that the chieftain refused to have anything to do with us and was mobilizing his forces. Suchix moved us back to just in bowshot of the town and we readied our bows and waited. Soon a mob of perhaps fifteen hundred men moved out of the town toward us. They were armed with spears, clubs, maces, and some slings. They tried to organize themselves in front of the town before charging. We continued to watch them mill around forming battle lines. Finally, their apparent leader harangued them for a few minutes, then urged them forward. We quietly remained on horseback and prepared our arrows. Just before they were in sling range, we let loose our first volley. The effect was staggering, but they were no cowards and, stepping over their fallen comrades, continued at us. We backed away while continuing to fire into them. Meanwhile our flanks spread out and soon we had them surrounded and were firing into them from all sides while staying out of their range. Seeing their situation, they tried to return to their town, but we continued to move with them. Finally, we formed a semicircle between them and their town, and the few survivors threw down their arms and tried to surrender.

I recalled, that in my grandfather’s day, we never took surrenders, but with them all on the ground groveling before us, we all looked to Suchix for orders. He looked at them with disgust and spat on the ground. He ordered us to form into ranks and sent for the guide. With some difficulty, because of the language problem with the latter, Suchix told him to order the survivors to gather all of our arrows and return them to us. If just one was missing, they would all die. When they received this order, they all got up gingerly and set about the unpleasant task as quickly as possible. Then Suchix told the guide to bring the man who refused to deal with us before him. The guide went into the town and returned with an old man of very haughty demeanor who was clearly furious with the outcome of his decision. Suchix took one look at him, then swung his sword and cleanly severed his head. He then ordered the guide to find the man’s successor and ask again if they wanted to join us. He soon came out followed by several strange animals laden with gifts. The gifts were transferred, unopened, to the backs of packhorses. Their animals looked rather like woolly deer or tall, long-necked sheep, but seemed to us, too frail to be suitable pack animals. We took back our arrows and rode through the town in single file. The houses were mostly of dried mud (although some were partly stone) with thatch roofs, a door covered with a blanket, but no windows or smoke holes. They looked dark and dingy with little discernible furniture. The people stayed out of sight while we rode through the town.

After leaving the town, we continued on our way to other villages and towns. None of them offered any resistance. We rejoined the rest of our tumen near the southern end of the area controlled by the Wan-ka-pampa. Many of the other minghans had encountered resistance also and had dealt with it as successfully as we had. We rested for a few days before we continued south. I noticed that the seasons were even more confused here. While it seemed to me it should be midwinter, the people were cultivating their fields of mature crops as though it were midsummer. I remarked this to some of the others, and they were also puzzled, although Ah Tutal pointed out that the sun indicated that it was summer, since the days were getting shorter, not longer as one would expect in the winter. He had no idea why it should be that way here, however.

The next people we encountered were called the Wampo. They were on both sides of a river junction. Eventually the northern fork was named the Wan-ka-pampa since that tribe controlled most of it and the southern fork was called the Wampo since they controlled it. After the two forks joined, the river was ultimately called the Palta after a people that lived all along that stretch, but more of them in their turn. The Wampo had a sort of strongpoint at the entrance to their territory. It was situated on the western side above a narrow spot in the valley where they could theoretically stop invasions. Actually, one could easily bypass the strongpoint since the valley was not really narrow enough to be effectively blocked. The strongpoint was fully manned. Henry ordered one of the tumen to deal with the “fort” while the rest of us filed down the valley. The task was given to the tumen under Theodore’s command. He merely surrounded it well out of sling range and brought up the cannon. These caused complete panic after a few rounds exploded inside the fort, and the defenders tried to flee down the valley. The few who managed to surrender were allowed to live. After that debacle, there seemed to be a general mass flight southward away from us, so we were ordered to ride ahead and surround as many of the refugees as we could and hold them.

My tumen was first in line, so we rode hard up the valley finally positioning ourselves some sixty li south of the fort. As the refugees reached our position, they were turned back. Other tumen had strung themselves out along the east and west side of the valley and the other two were marching south. We bagged several thousand of them from various towns and villages between us. As we tightened the ring around them, a few tried to fight their way out only to be cut down. Most tried to stay out of bowshot. A few tried to float down the river to escape us but these were mostly picked off from shore with arrows. Once they were hemmed into a tight pack, Henry sent the survivors from the fort to ask their leaders if they wished to surrender or die. They quickly surrendered and were ordered to return to their homes.

We continued up the valley finding it completely deserted except for those too old or sick to flee. We ignored them and continued on our way. At dusk we were not yet at the end of the Wampo River, so we pitched camp with guards posted at close intervals. We were not disturbed that night or any other night. Instead, after several days of wandering up the Wampo River among the deserted towns and villages, we came upon another stone “fort” on the west side of the valley set up on a steep mountainside. It was fairly well placed since all approaches except for the rear would entail a very steep climb. Two of the tumen were formed in a semicircle below the fort well out of reach of the stones they occasionally rolled down on us. A third tumen moved north until they were out of sight, then climbed up the ridge and moved back south along the ridge line ending up above the fort. They set up a few of the cannon and began lobbing shot into them from above. The other two tumen waited nearby because we were sure there were more of them than those in the fort. To their credit, the defenders in the fort did not panic but rather sortied out to attack the tumen above them. The sorties were quickly driven back. Finally, they began to slip over the walls and head down toward our waiting tumen below. We backed away and gave them room to form their battle lines after they had scrambled down from the fort. There were only about three thousand of them. At the signal from their leader, they began to charge us and were mowed down quickly with arrows. The handful of survivors was ordered to return to their leaders and tell them to end the resistance before they were wiped out. They ran off toward the east and over some hills. We camped where we were and waited to hear from them.
A couple of days later, a procession was seen approaching from the east. I had to go on patrol before they arrived but heard later that among them were most of the chiefs of the Wampo, who ruled in a sort of loose federation. They had decided to see what their options were before continuing their resistance. Once the benefits of joining us were explained to them along with the specter of the consequences of refusing to join, they withdrew to consider their response. They spent much of the rest of the day arguing back and forth among themselves, but by the end of the day returned to announce that they would join. They were ordered to supply us with a token force to help move our supplies. We found out that their territory included a few small river valleys to the east of this one, but Henry could see no point in visiting all their towns since the leaders had come to him.

At this point we left behind the tumen commanded by Henry’s brother Ignace. Once the rest of us were in place, it would be moving down a river called the Lambayeque to attack the Chimu settlements just south of the desert. The rest of us continued south picking our way over some high mountains to reach our next quarry, a people called the Q’asa-marka. They could not have been in much contact with the Wampo since they were completely surprised at our descent that morning from the mountains right above their principle city, which we quickly surrounded. They sent out a negotiating team to buy time while they scrambled to put together a defense of the city.

When the team arrived before Henry, it was discovered that they spoke the same language as the Chimu with whom they were also allied. We had several interpreters who could speak that language (Yunga) fluently, so communication was easier than usual. I was well out of earshot for any of the negotiations, but Theodore filled me in on what happened a few days later. The Q’asa-marka were given the standard choice. They immediately began to complain that we had not announced our intention in advance so that they could have had enough time to consider their options fully and prepare a suitable reply to our ultimatum. Henry replied that since they were obviously stalling to give their leaders time to raise their army, he would make it easy for them. If they surrendered the city, all those who wanted to try their luck in battle would be permitted to leave and we would await their return with all their forces right here in front of the city. Should they prevail in the battle, those of us who survived would withdraw and never return to their valley again. Should we win, the survivors would be allowed to join us or die. He then dismissed them with orders to reply by midday.

At midday the ruler of the city came out to surrender the city and lead most of the young men south. Henry and his staff and personal guard took up residence in the house of the ruler. The tumen were encamped around the city. The remaining people in the city were told that as long as they refrained from any treachery, they had nothing to fear. There were hot springs around the city that many of us got a chance to enjoy while we were waiting. Patrols were sent out along with spies to see what the enemy was doing. It eventually filtered back several days later that they had marshaled their forces and those of an allied people to the south, the Huamachucu and should be ready to advance on our position soon. I kept expecting treachery of some kind from them, but was completely wrong. Eventually their lines advanced to within a few li of ours in front of the city and the patrols could find no sign of any forces sneaking up on us from any other direction.

Before dawn the next morning, we were up and advancing toward the enemy. By first light we were within bowshot of their lines, which were just getting organized. As usual, our artillery was set up about three hundred yards behind our main line. The four tumen were spread out in a line across most of the width of the valley somewhat overlapping the enemy lines. They had managed to raise an army a little larger than ours, but they were arranged in close ranks on the west side of the river, the wider side. We had a pontoon bridge across the river near the city and had two minghan on the eastern side. Once the enemy was in place, the leader of the force stood in front of them and began to harangue us. Henry put up with it for a few minutes, then ordered a modest shower of arrows be loosed on the man. He fell with several in him. The enemy was stunned at this and hesitated but eventually the second-in-command ordered them forward.

As usual, we fired into them as we backed away. The minghans on the other side of the river lined up along the bank and fired into their flanks. Meanwhile, we began to spread out along their left flank also. They tried to get their slingers in front to answer our arrows, but they didn’t have the range and fell under our bows. Finally we reached the cannon. We stood behind the artillery and fired arrows into them as they advanced. As soon as they were well within range of the cannon, the first volley was fired. The valley shook with the retort as huge holes were torn into their ranks. They stopped at once, stunned and dazed, only to receive a second volley. They dropped everything and ran pell-mell to the rear. By now, half of our forces had slipped behind them and they were surrounded. Seeing the hopelessness of their situation, they threw themselves down on the ground and surrendered.

It proved difficult to find a leader among the survivors, but ultimately capitulation was effected not only for the Q’asa-marka but also for their allies, the Huamachucu. It took a while to sort things out but, by late winter (which should have been late summer), we were ready to move on the Chimu.

14
Conquest of the Chimu, 93 K
(Coast of Peru, 1461)

As we readied for the invasion of the Chimu, another tumen arrived from the north. It was put into camp in the valley of the Q’asa-marka to guard our rear and supply lines. Meanwhile, Theodore and Acapipioltzin’s tumen were formed into an Ordu under command of the latter and prepared to descend the Xequetepeque River, which began just over a ridge west of the valley of the Q’asa-marka. The last two tumen (including mine) would remain under Henry and proceed down the Chicama River to attack the Chimu capital, Chan Chan. This river and its nearby southern neighbor, the Moche River, had their sources closer to the lands of the Huamachucu. Messengers were sent to make sure that all three invasion forces (including the Ordu under Ignace in the north) were poised to attack simultaneously.

The rainy season was five months away as we were getting into position for our campaigns. We were told by the Huamachucu (and it was confirmed by our spies) that it rarely rained in the lands of the Chimu. They planted during the rainy season to take advantage of the runoff water from the mountains. That gave us the double advantage of attacking when they needed to harvest the last of their crops in and not being hampered by rain-soaked terrain. We delayed starting until the scouts reported that the Chimu were, indeed, still harvesting. Since the rainy season was still some months away, we, of course, set out on the slippery trail up over the mountains in a gentle but steady rain. I hated to think what we would have had in the rainy season. Our tumen was in the lead and, naturally, my jagun was in the van. We were on foot, leading our horses, because the trail was so slippery. Scouts had been sent ahead to reconnoiter. They soon returned to report that the crest of the trail was now defended by a fair-sized force of the Chimu. Ah Tutal sent one of them on to inform Hayjaay and the rest to find alternate routes over the mountains. He then halted us while he went to confer with Suchix.

Before long, Hayjaay was among us with his minghan commanders in tow. He ordered half of the minghans to take charge of all the horses and continue ahead very slowly, while the rest of us scrambled up the mountains on either side of the trail and attacked the defenders from a better position. This was a brutal climb. We had to inch up rain-slick, steep mountains only partly covered with vegetation while fully equipped. Being the tallest and most experienced with climbing mountains (from my youth among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya), I had the dubious honor of being the first one up. We had moved somewhat to the north of the trail and the enemy was not in sight at this point. I soon ran into one of the scouts and he led me to the enemy. From my vantage point, I could see that I was above and behind them. They had rolled boulders across the trail to block it and a large (several hundred) force of slingers was poised to strike at the strategic moment, each with a significant pile of stones at his feet. I could not see our forces on the trail from this angle and, as yet, there were none of our men south of the trail. I sent the scout back to urge the men to move quickly forward while I looked over the lay of the land. I soon found a good spot where we would be able to fire arrows into them from behind and still have some cover from their stones.

The men began trickling in and I started positioning them. Suchix soon came up and, after looking over my disposition of the men, nodded with approval. More men kept coming up, among them an exhausted Ah Tutal, who had to rest a while to catch his breath. At last, I noticed (barely, because of their skill) that the men were also in place south of the trail. We waited until the slingers had selected a stone and were just starting to swing their slings; then we loosed a telling salvo of arrows into their ranks. The salvo was devastating, but the survivors bravely stood their ground and hurled their stones at us while trying to find some sort of cover. Meanwhile, a force of their swordsmen came running up the trail and scrambled up the walls of the trail to get at us.

A fully recovered Ah Tutal gathered up a little over half of us and rushed to meet this threat. We formed a line protecting the flank of the others and waited for the enemy to clear the crest of the hill. As they reached the top, they stopped to gather strength before coming at us. Ah Tutal waited until he felt the odds were interesting enough, and then led us in a charge. Our numbers were almost equal when we attacked. I thought that rather stupid, but found it typical of the Maya tumen. I felt we should have loosed a volley or two of arrows at them while they were gathering strength, but I wasn’t in charge. Anyway, we closed with them and they fought ferociously, but their wooden swords, helmets and breastplates, hide shields, and quilted cotton armor were no match for our steel swords, armor, and shields, and we were soon driving them back whence they came. Just as we reached their staging area at the crest of the hill, a volley of spears launched with atlatl surprised us. Those of us with quick enough reflexes were able to deflect these with our shields. We then put aside our swords and took up our bows again to meet this new threat. The enemy soon was retreating back down the trail.

The surviving swordsmen had already started back as soon as they regained the trail. It looked as though none of the slingers got away. The rest of the tumen swarmed over the rock barrier and dispatched any of their wounded. The force south of the trail scrambled down to the trail and started off after the enemy. Suchix came over with the rest of our force and they fanned out to help tend our wounded. I was unharmed, but Ah Tutal was badly wounded by a spear. Ah Chel came up and was devastated to see his old friend. He looked at the wound, then looked up at me and shook his head. Thanks to our raw silk shirts the spear pulled out cleanly. It was made of some kind of hard wood with a fire-hardened point. Suchix saw Ah Tutal and stooped down to give him some encouragement. Two of the men in my arban were wounded, but neither wound was life threatening. I helped dress their wounds, then returned to the vigil with Ah Tutal. He did not last long. Almost forty of the men died and about a hundred were wounded. Hayjaay came up and saw that the dead and wounded were put on wagons for the descent down the trail after the enemy.

As we got under way Hayjaay called together the arban leaders from my jagun. He told us that we had to choose one of our numbers to replace Ah Tutal. Whoever we chose would then have to make sure that his arban elected his successor. We withdrew to ourselves and I immediately suggested Ek Nah a very brave man who was also a fine warrior. He shook his head.

“It is you, Crow, who should replace Ah Tutal. You were the first of us in the climb today, you arranged us for the ambush, you did not hesitate to attack the enemy, and you are the easiest to see.”

This last remark got a big laugh from the others and they all agreed clapping me on the back and giving me the red sash of a commander of a jagun. I was a little surprised that they had such confidence in me, for I was easily the youngest of them, but at the same time I was rather pleased. I saw to it that the other positions were filled and was generally congratulated and clapped on the back by the rest of the tumen. Suchix was genuinely surprised when I presented myself to him with the red sash. But he shrugged and gave me my marching orders. We would now bring up the rear of our tumen.

One might think that now that I was a more major officer, I would be more aware of the Ordu tactics, but actually, the commander of the Ordu called all the shots and if he consulted with anyone, it would only be with someone whose opinion he valued. I was, however, able to piece together what was planned after the fact by judicious questioning. Of course, I must also point out that if the commander happened to blunder into success, I am sure he would insist it was exactly as he planned, while if his carefully laid out plans ended in disaster, it would of course be due to his mislaid trust in some designated advisor.

Be all that as it may, Henry, the commander, was reported to be livid that the enemy was waiting for us along our route as though they were informed of our line of march. I thought it rather naive of him to think that the Chimu had no spies of their own. In any case, being quite conscientious, he took what he felt to be remedial action. He designated about half the scouts as “infiltrators.” They would not report back, but would lie in wait for and eliminate any of the enemy’s spies. The others would continue in their usual duties. He then studied the maps again and decided on a ruse. Both of the nearby rivers could lead to the Chimu capital, since it was between them. The original plan was to use the northern river, the Chicama, that was larger and watered a broader valley as the invasion route. He now decided to split his forces. He would send our tumen up the Chicama Valley with the orders to take our time and seem to have trouble advancing against the enemy and taking their several strong points (fortified hills). Meanwhile, he would take the other tumen into the hills and at the right moment (once the preponderance of their forces were aligned against us) descend on the other valley, the Moche, and smash his way to the capital (Chan Chan). He would then turn north against the forces aligned against us if the loss of their capital was not enough to force them to capitulate.

The Chicama was formed by the conjunction of two smaller rivers, which in turn were formed by still smaller rivers. We entered the valley from the southernmost branch of the northern river and both tumen followed it down to the conjunction with the middle branch. At this point, our tumen continued down the river while Henry took the other tumen up the middle branch and out of view. We ran into our first strong point south of the river near the junction of the two rivers to form the Chicama. It was a well-located strong point on a large hill overlooking the whole valley. It was necessary that we reduce it before they could see that the other tumen wasn’t just clearing out the middle branch valley. We quickly surrounded it just out of slingshot range. The “fort” was made mud bricks like most of the Chimu structures. We simply concentrated our cannon on the most-level side, the east, and fired shot into the wall, which dissolved in a cloud of dust. Startled, the enemy took a few volleys of arrows until they recovered enough to rush us. There were only a few dozen defenders, so we cut them all down easily.

There was a small deserted village south of the strong point and south of it was the southern river. We sent patrols up the river and its branches, but found them also deserted. Once the patrols were back, we returned to our advance down the river. The valley was quite broad near the conjunction of the two rivers, over three li wide. We continued our movement slowly, constantly sending patrols up each branch valley, no matter how small, until we reached the next strong point. Actually, there were two of them. The main one was south of the river on an isolated hill rising nearly two thousand feet above the valley floor. The other one was north of the river and looked as though it had been hastily thrown up to stop our advance in tandem with the other one. It was situated much like the first one we had encountered and proved to be just as easily reduced. We attacked its northeast wall with a volley of shot and quickly leveled it. The enemy bravely sortied out, but in such small numbers that they were easily wiped out.

We now turned to the other “fort.” The highest point surrounding it was on the slopes of the mountains to the south, but it proved to be too far away for the shot to reach the walls of the fort. Hayjaay decided this made it an ideal place for us to seem to have trouble. He had the artillery fire a few test shots at the fort and then made a big show the next few days of moving the cannon to another spot and firing again in vain at the fort. Finally, our scouts reported that the enemy had taken the bait and a large force was moving toward us from the south. The artillery was moved back up the valley while we seemingly milled around in confusion and indecision beneath the enemy fort for two more days until the relief force came into view. They did outnumber us, but not by much, so it was very difficult getting the men to withdraw up the valley in feigned disarray. The men in the fort came out and jeered us as we moved away. The relief army picked up the pace in pursuit.

It always amazed me that this simple tactic could work again and again, but it did. We led them up the valley to where our cannon were waiting. We formed a line in front of the cannon to screen them from the enemy’s view. They came up on the run, but seeing that we had turned to fight, they stopped and rearranged themselves into their usual battle line, the slingers in front followed by the spearmen and finally the sword and club wielders. We waited graciously until they were sorted out and then after some haranguing by their leader, they charged. We neatly stepped out of the way of our artillery, which fired a devastating barrage of grapeshot into them. While they paused to absorb this shock, we began to ride around them pouring arrows into their flanks. The second salvo from the cannon ended their resolve and they fled. We continued to pour arrows into their flanks until we managed to get ahead of them, surround them and cut off their retreat.

The standard practice was to stay out of range of their weapons and simply fire arrows into them until they were all down. But again, the Maya had their own ways. Without waiting for orders, they bolted forward to close with the still-significant enemy force. Seeing no alternative, I put away my bow and joined them. This bit of bravado cost us quite a few men and horses. My horse was speared out from under me and my quick reflexes saved me from being beaned by a club. In the confusion of a general melee, the difference in weapons is greatly mitigated since backs and sides can be exposed. I decided to remain on foot and continued hacking away at the enemy until a club delivered a glancing blow to my head and I fell down unconscious. I learned later that my men surrounded me and protected me until I came to after a few minutes. I rose up shaking my head and looking around in confusion until Ah Chel shook me back to my senses and I snapped instinctively back into action. Before long, all the enemy were all down and we were tending our wounded and finishing off theirs.

The bravado cost us over a thousand dead and wounded. Among the seriously wounded was Hayjaay. He had to withdraw to Q’asa-marka to recuperate. Bisdah, a Kadohadacho who was on Henry’s staff, replaced him in a few days. Meanwhile, we returned to the fort and Bisdah brought up a new kind of cannon, which had to be implanted into the ground at just the right angle when fired. It lobbed shell into the fort creating havoc and finally causing them to try to fight their way out of our cordon. This time, discipline held and we wiped them out without loosing any more men. We turned back down the river. Now there seemed to be a general acquiescence to us among the people. The villages surrendered immediately and pledged undying loyalty to us, whoever we were. We came across a few abandoned forts on our way and finally reached a rather large town, which proved to be a sort of administrative center.

It was walled but not defended. We entered through the unattended gate and wandered through the town only to find it completely deserted. There were some fine examples of Chimu art that had been left behind. These consisted of very colorful textiles with rather abstract representations of people, creatures, and temples or some sort of buildings and many very fine ceramics, which were a little more realistic (usually) and quite varied in shape and color. There were also some small piles of flat copper pieces that were about three inches long and two inches wide at the ends with a tapered midsection (about an inch and a half wide). We learned later that they were called “naipes” and served as a sort of exchange medium. We did not disturb anything, however, and just moved through the town.

Bisdah decided that there would be no more organized opposition, so he sent one messenger to see if Henry needed any help and another to see how the campaign in the north was proceeding. Bisdah then scattered us to make sure there was no more resistance in the valley. We were split into jaguns for this task, and I was sent due west, directly toward the sea. It was not far to the sea, only about a few hours’ ride. There I found a small fishing village that offered no resistance when we rode through it. We turned north toward the mouth of the Chicama and found another peaceful fishing village along the way. We then turned back west along the river and ran into a town near dusk. I rode the men boldly through the town. I could see some of the inhabitants furtively observing our progress, but no one moved to stop us. We reached the square in the center of the town and I ordered the men to make camp. If I had wanted to ensure the men’s devotion to me, I couldn’t have made a better decision. They considered it a truly bold move which convinced them that I was the right sort of commander. Actually, I was quite satisfied that the enemy had no fight in them and thought there was very little risk involved in camping in the town. Besides, the square was quite large and we would have ample room to maneuver in the event of any treachery.

Not only was there no treachery, but also, the town leaders approached us with gifts of prepared food after we had set up our camp. They used that strange-looking pack animal for meat as well as a small fat ratlike creature, deer, lizards, ducks, and other birds and seals, but mostly they ate fish and shellfish. They cultivated centli, beans, and squash like everyone else, but they also grew ground tubers. One called oca was like the usually yellowish ones in the north, although they were not limited to that color here, and another called chun~o that came in all sizes and shapes, but were generally white, gray, yellow, or bluish inside. They also produced groundnuts, chili, yoce, tomatl, and cotton as well as some strange but tasty fruits and a variety of herbs. We were quite well fed that evening, although we had a lot of trouble communicating.

The next morning, we left the town and returned to our Ordu camp. I reported to Suchix who nodded and told me to stand by for orders. I had the men dismount and relax but not set up camp. Most of the rest of the Ordu had returned and were waiting like we were. After a while, I got a message to have the men mount up and lead the way south. I got the men up and sent out an arban on each flank to scout. The other jaguns fell in behind us as we rode out. Suchix rode up and joined me. We spoke little although he did mention that Hayjaay would not be back soon, but seemed to be recovering. I thought it best not to ask him any questions, but I was wondering why we were headed south, since the northern Ordu had not yet joined us.
Not long after midday, we arrived at the camp of Henry’s Ordu. It was just to the northeast of a very large walled city. The city proved to be the Chimu capital, Chan Chan. We were ordered into camp with Henry’s Ordu, which we would now rejoin. Once we were camped, I looked up some acquaintances in Henry’s tumen to find out what was going on. It seemed that their lightning strike up the Moche Valley had caused the Chimu king, Minchançaman, to surrender. We were waiting around until Khan George arrived to take the surrender. He was expected any day now. Until he arrived, we were not to enter the city or go anywhere else, for that matter.

In due course, Acapipioltzin’s Ordu rejoined us and was put in camp. Once they were settled, Theodore looked me up, and congratulated me on my promotion. He told me that his force met a lot of resistance at first, but by the time they reached the first large city, Pacatnamu, all opposition had ended. It took them so long to join us because it took a while to visit all the towns and villages in the valley. He told me the other two tumen (Ignace’s and Essabo’s) should be in camp the next day. They had met very little resistance, but Ignace had a very large area to visit and Essabo had had to cross a rather large desert that proved to be hard on his horses. On the whole, Theodore felt the campaign had gone rather smoothly, but he was glad we would have a little respite while waiting for our cousin, Khan George, since his men were a bit ragged. Again he asked if I wanted to be introduced to our kin, but I still demurred.

It was actually two days before Essabo and Ignace rode into camp and almost a month before Khan George finally arrived accompanied by two more tumen. Theodore later confided to me that Henry was quite put out at having to wait around all this time to receive the Chimu surrender, but dared not let his father know. Ignace, on the other hand, had been injured in an accident and was quite glad to get a chance to recover fully before the big ceremony. All the tumen were formed up in ranks and made quite an impressive sight, but, of course, my tumen was on the western end of the line and we could see almost nothing of what was going on. We could just make out a small procession from the city moving toward the pavilion that had been set up for George, but nothing more. In fact, I never did get close enough to George during his visit to see what he looked like. At the time, I was mildly curious about him, but did not think it wise to approach him or his sons for that matter. Indeed, I had not really had a good look at the latter either.

Once again, Theodore reported the scene for me. The ground under the pavilion had been covered with rugs and George’s chair was set up on a platform above the ground level. Two more chairs were set up on the ground level on either side of George for his two sons and the other tumen commanders were lined up standing on either side. The Chimu king, Minchançaman, had to approach barefoot and bareheaded with his head lowered until he reached the pavilion. Then he had to prostrate himself and crawl to within a few feet of the “august presence” at which point he had to grovel and beg sufficiently (with the aid of an interpreter) to be allowed to live. His attendants, all in similar disarray, had to remain prostrate at the edge of the pavilion. After an uncomfortably long time, George raised his hand to end the supplication. Then, after an even more uncomfortable silence, he finally whispered something to Henry, who in turn, told the former king that he would be spared, but would have to return to Tamalameque with all his family except for his son, Chumuncaur, who would be allowed to stay and help the new governor, my old tumen commander Hayjaay. Should Chumuncaur prove trustworthy, he would be allowed to govern his people in George’s name. At this point, Minchançaman crawled over to the side and, once off the pavilion, got up and turned himself over to George’s retainers. Then the hapless Chumuncaur had to crawl up before George and praise and thank him at length for his wisdom and mercy. When George signaled him to stop, he had to crawl back off the pavilion, then rise up with his head still lowered and lead the procession back to the city. Hayjaay was borne on a litter after them and set up in a palace.

On the whole, I was glad I couldn’t see the spectacle. I’m not sure I could have disguised my contempt for my cousin George. Theodore and Acapipioltzin were both revolted by the show, but felt it would be very bad manners to let it be known. It would also have been, in my opinion, fatal, despite their rank in our Khanate. I felt sorry for Hayjaay having to govern these people after they had been so totally humiliated. I was glad to hear that one of the tumen, Essabo’s, would be left with him for garrison duty. Once the show had concluded, George met with his sons for a while to discuss the continuing campaign. Then he met with the tumen commanders to exchange niceties and tell them absolutely nothing. In due course, after a few days, he left with a large entourage including the hapless Minchançaman and his family and whatever the Chimu had that was of value to him. He was accompanied by the tumen that had been under Henry’s command. It would accompany him to the Q’asa-marka Valley where it would replace the tumen in reserve there, which would now join the campaign.

Once George was gone, things began to move again. My tumen would be sent south to ensure there was no resistance along the southern part of the Chimu lands. We were to fan out and visit each town and village and make sure they understood the change of rulers. Enough interpreters were assigned to us so that we could split into jaguns for this task. Before we left, the outlines of the next campaign began to filter down to the tumen commanders. Henry would take four tumen, return to Huamachucu, and then turn south to take the rest of lands inland from the Chimu. Ignace would follow my tumen south, and when we all reached the end of the Chimu lands, we would return to the offensive and conquer our way farther south. Theodore and Acapipioltzin would be with Henry along with the two new tumen George had brought. Ignace would have his own tumen, the one that had been in reserve in Q’asa-marka and my tumen.

On the way to the Viru Valley, the next valley south of the Moche Valley, the jagun commanders were introduced to their interpreters. Mine was named Llapchillulli. He was from Chot, a town in the Lambayeque Valley in the north. He had learned a decent amount of Mongol, the official language of the Khanate of the Clouds, and was even trying to learn Nahual. He told me that his town was glad to see the end of the upstart Chimu dynasty, which had only conquered them a few generations ago. The original rulers, to whom he claimed some vague relationship, were descendants of the legendary Naymlap, who arrived on the coast, accompanied by attendants, a wife, and concubines on a fleet of rafts made of a lightweight, native wood. He had with him an idol made of green stone and called Yampellec after whom he named the valley. He founded his capital at Chot and set up his idol there. Llapchillulli regaled me with the forgettable dynastic history at length. The only thing I found interesting was the story of the last of the line, Fempellec. It seemed he moved the green idol causing a demon to appear to him in the form of a woman. He copulated with the demon and, as a result, rain (extremely rare along the coast) fell heavily in the valley causing much destruction and famine. The priests then seized him and drowned him in the sea. I had to admit, I had never heard anything quite like that before. I asked him if he had any idea from where this Naymlap had originally come. He wasn’t sure, but suggested that the sea goddess or even the creator, Pachacamac, probably had sent him. We would find the latter’s shrine just south of the Chimu border.

When the tumen reached the Viru Valley, we broke into jaguns, spread out, and began visiting the towns and villages. The routine was always the same. We rode through a town to their square and waited while Llapchillulli gathered the town leaders and told them the way things now were. They in turn would bow to me and we would ride on out of the town. I was on the eastern side this time and had the dubious task of riding in the roughest terrain and visiting the smaller villages. We met no resistance of any kind at all. Eventually we reached what our interpreters assured us was the last Chimu valley, the Guaura. Just as the jaguns were trickling in to reform the tumen, Ignace rode up with the rest of our Ordu. We rested two days, then launched our next campaign against a people called the Colli. It should have been around the winter solstice, but it was definitely the summer solstice here.

15
Conquest of the Central Highlands, 94 K
(Southern Peru, 1462)

The Colli were a small state in decline because of the expansion of their southern neighbors, the Ychma. They were confined to one of the coastal valleys, the Chillon. It was thought they might resist since they had a chain of strong points throughout the valley, but our crossing of their border was not contested, and when we presented ourselves at their ruler’s fortress palace, they immediately surrendered. The door was thrown open and the ruler led out a procession heavily laden with gifts. As usual, we were not allowed to enter the city, but had to pitch camp while the ruler entertained Ignace and his staff.

After Ignace had been feted enough (several days), we were roused early again and headed south with my tumen in the lead, as usual, and on this particular day my jagun was in the van. Soon we were crossing into the lands of the Ychma. When we reached the first town, we were neither resisted nor welcomed. We were ignored. It was as if a conquering army always marched through. Llapchillulli, who was still with me, told me that the locals had no idea we were conquering them, but rather thought we were merely headed to the shrine of Pachacamac to consult the oracle. I asked if armies the size of ours usually consult oracles. He admitted they did not, but pointed out that it was not yet apparent to them just how many of us there were since we were fairly strung out.

He proved to be right, because not long after we left the town behind, one of the scouts reported that we were being approached by a delegation consisting of some elites and their armed escort. I halted the men and sent the scout back to tell Bisdah, who was still our tumen commander. The delegation came into view, drew near, and halted in front of us. Two of the elites approached us warily. They were both short and rather stocky (one more so that the other) with darkish skin and the large hooked noses so prevalent locally. They were dressed in silk, testifying to the indefatigable fervor of our merchants. Their faces were a mixture of bewilderment and apprehension. The stouter one moved a little forward to address me, but stared open-mouthed at me for a moment before speaking. Their language was completely incomprehensible to me, but, fortunately, Llapchillulli was able to understand them.

“They want to know why we are here and why there are so many of us,” he translated.
“Tell them they will have to talk to my superior,” I replied. “He will be here soon.”

They withdrew to their escort to wait. Meanwhile more and more of the tumen rode up and fell into place on either side of my jagun. It was obvious the delegation was becoming more and more nervous by the minute. Finally, Bisdah rode up and I explained the situation. He snorted and told Llapchillulli to tell them the truth about our intentions and demand their surrender. When this message was delivered, the leaders gave their reply and Llapchillulli returned to us. He told us that the leaders asked permission to withdraw to their ruler and inform him of our demands. Bisdah dismissed them with a wave and they hastily retraced their steps. He then ordered me to continue on and turned back to confer with Ignace. I got the men going again and sent the scouts back out. At this point, Llapchillulli told me that they had asked him if there were any more strange-looking ones like me among us. They seemed to be relieved when he assured them I was the only one. I decided to let that pass without further comment.

When we reached the Rimac River, we began putting together our pontoon bridge. A small force on the other side of the river watched us with interest, but did nothing more. As we were lashing the last boats in place, the force hastily withdrew toward the south. We crossed the river and quickly fanned out to form a defensive perimeter while the rest of the tumen crossed. When the last of the men crossed the bridge, we took it up again. We advanced about two li south of the river to a high point where we set up camp. Sentries were posted, but the scouts reported no nearby hostile activity. The terrain was quite broken up, but our sentries were well positioned to see any movement. Nothing disturbed us that night.

We broke camp early and headed south again. By midmorning, we were approaching the town and shrine called Pachacamac. I asked Llapchillulli about the place. He informed me that the shrine was dedicated to the creator god, Pachacamac. In residence was an oracle who could give advice and predict the future. Both were greatly revered along the coast since Pachacamac would let loose earthquakes if he was displeased. The shrine had been here for many generations. It was above the town, which was closer to the ocean. It consisted of a terraced pyramid built on a hill in such a way that it was hard to tell where the hill ended and the shrine began. It proved to be built of dried-mud bricks like everything else along the coast. The temple was a small structure on the top that was only accessible to the priests of the cult. He doubted if Ignace would be allowed to see the god. I wondered what would happen to whoever told Ignace he could not see the god.

Fortunately for all involved, a procession of the priests came out to meet us and requested an audience with our leader. Ignace came up in his own good time while the priests waited patiently and we fanned out around the town. When Ignace presented himself to the priests, they all bowed down and announced that Pachacamac, himself, had told them we were coming and urged them to cooperate with us since he had sent us to bring order in the land. Ignace apparently shrugged and accepted their hospitality for the night. The secular leaders of the Ychma also presented themselves to profess their allegiance to the new order. I was, of course, with my jagun guarding the southern outskirts of the town and Bisdah was sending patrols out to check for any treachery.

After dawdling outside the town for a few days, we were ordered to break camp and resume the march south. A day later, we saw a dispatch rider come up to Bisdah. The next thing we knew, we were ordered to change direction and move back to the Rimac River. Of course, no one bothered to tell us what was going on, but I noticed that it was only our tumen that was moving north, the others were continuing south. Eventually Suchix came along beside me (my jagun was in the middle this time) and told me we had been ordered to join Henry in the highlands. All he knew was that we would march up the Rimac and crush any resistance on our way to join him.

Once we started up the Rimac, Llapchillulli asked me if we would now march on the Atavillo. I replied we would if they were on the upper reaches of the Rimac. We reached them a few days later and they offered no resistance at all. It turned out, they had hoped we were just passing through on our way elsewhere. They were disappointed, but resigned when they learned our mission. Bisdah prevailed on them for guides and auxiliaries for our invasion of their northern neighbors, the Ocro and the Lampa.

We had moved well into Ocro and/or Lampa territory (it was hard to tell where the border between them was) and accepted the surrender of some of their towns before our scouts reported the approach of some enemy forces. The terrain of this region was what was what the locals called “puna”—coarse grassland that saw little rain. The enemy approached in a mass. They were armed with spears and clubs only, no slingers or archers. It looked like we outnumbered them also. The men wanted to close with them on foot to make the battle more interesting. Fortunately, Bisdah was not so inclined. We quickly surrounded them. They looked at us, no doubt noticing that they didn’t have a chance, and hesitated. There seemed to be a discussion going on among them for a while; then a small group of them detached and approached Bisdah. He sent for an interpreter. They wished to parley, but were given the usual ultimatum. They went back to their men and more argument ensued. Finally, a large group of them detached, laid down their arms and were allowed to pass through our lines. The remnant was only about a thousand or so.

Bisdah ordered the men to wipe them out with arrows, but that set off a general grumbling and one of the minghan commanders took him aside. He spat in disgust, but allowed the men their way. One minghan then dismounted and attacked the remnant on foot with spears and swords. Fortunately, it wasn’t my minghan that was so “honored.” The enemy was wiped out, but the minghan took at least three hundred casualties. I could understand Bisdah’s disgust. We were already well understrength, perhaps only about seventy-five hundred men in the tumen, and still several days from Henry’s Ordu, and he had to waste valuable troops to placate their sense of fairness. What made it worse was that fairness played no part in Mongol tactics and training. I had a feeling Bisdah would want to be replaced when we reached Henry.

The force we had encountered proved to be that of the Lampa. Those that had surrendered immediately complied with all of Bisdah’s demands. A few days later, we arrived at their capital to accept the obeisance of their ruler. Next we were led to the capital of the Ocro who also surrendered immediately. I was surprised that the latter did not resist or that the former didn’t have a larger army. From the look of their numbers, they each should have been able to field an army larger than our understrength tumen. It took us quite a while to maneuver around their lands since the terrain was rough and they were spread out over a considerable area. Eventually we turned north with auxiliaries doubling our number.

We found ourselves moving down a river that seemed to flow generally north. The tribe in this area was called the Pinco. They expressed no interest in contesting our progress or resisting our demands. Their ruler came to us and submitted his people to us. He also told us that our compatriots were fighting the Waylya who lived along a valley just to the west of theirs. They cheerfully offered to guide us there and provide us with more auxiliaries. They suggested we enter the Waylya territory from the southeast since they were fighting in the north and west. There was a trail along a river called the Pachacoto that was rarely defended and at the moment was not defended since the Waylya were occupied elsewhere. Bisdah agreed but insisted that the Pinco auxiliaries lead the way while the Ocro and Lampa forces bring up the rear.
I thought it odd that he wanted us between such potentially untrustworthy forces, but I could see his point. If we were being led into a trap, the Pinco would afford us some protection and the Ocro and Lampa were far enough in the rear so as not to hinder movement. In the event, he also sent out scouts to reconnoiter the flanks and front. My jagun was second on this march, so it was intact (scouts always came from the leading and trailing jaguns). Suchix was with the lead jagun so I was in the dark as usual. The trail was not an easy one. Not only were we rather high in altitude, sapping our endurance, but also, the dry, rough terrain was hard on both men and horses. The river was something of a gorge rather than a valley. The winding, narrow trail was above it on the south side. We were hemmed in by high snowcapped mountains on either side as well as in front of us in the distance. We camped along the trail in relative discomfort the first night after only making about forty-five li.

The next day, not long after we got started, we came across a very strange and beautiful plant. It was rather like a ball of bladelike leaves taller than a man. On the occasional mature plants, there was a huge towering column usually well over twenty feet high containing hundreds of spikes covered with a profusion of white trumpetshaped flowers. They were a remarkable sight. I didn’t quite understand why any plant would be flowering in the local winter. At least I think it was supposed to be winter. The Pinco told us this was a good omen since the plant (it was called puya) only flowered once in a hundred years, and it was unusual to see so many flowering at one time. I had a feeling they were grasping at straws, but the plant was a striking sight.

By late afternoon, we were surrounding a small town of the Waylya. They were not prepared to defend themselves due to their being quite short of men of fighting age at the moment. Since they surrendered, our auxiliaries were not allowed to sack the town, much to their disappointment. We camped around the town to prevent anyone from slipping out to warn of our approach. The next morning, we proceeded quickly north for several days accepting the surrender of one town after another until we reached a larger town that was not prepared to give up without a fight. Bisdah looked over the town and ordered the auxiliaries to deal with it. Before they even began, he ordered us north again. I rather regretted leaving the town to the mercy of the auxiliaries, but so it was.

Unimpeded by our escort, we reached another small town by nightfall. It surrendered, of course. The following day we continued north quickly and near midday invested their principle city. They were astonished to see us approach from the south but had no intention of surrendering. There were not enough of us to attack the city, so we merely besieged it. Two days into the siege, our auxiliaries finally began to file in, somewhat burdened by booty from their conquest. Bisdah placed them around the city and moved us north since the scouts had reported the approach of the enemy. Actually, it was more like the approach of a mob. Their army had been routed by Henry’s forces and was fleeing headlong toward their capital with Henry in hot pursuit. At the sight of us blocking their path, many despaired and threw down their weapons in surrender, but a fair number of them continued on toward us.

This time Bisdah would not hear of any “fair” attack but ordered us to wipe them out with arrows. There was some sulking but the deed was quickly done and soon all resistance ended. Henry’s forces came up shortly and after rounding up the prisoners, we turned back toward the capital. With some difficulty, we replaced the auxiliaries around the city and ordered them to begin the march south. Before long, an abject procession of elites trudged out of the city toward our lines. They surrendered and, as usual, feted Henry and his staff, while we camped around the city for a few days. During this time in camp, Theodore came by to see me. He was glad we were in the same Ordu again. We brought each other up to date on our activities. Henry had first expanded the eastern flank and conquered the Chacha, the Moyopampa, the Chillao, and the Casca-yunga, all in the highlands east of the Q’asa-marka and Huamachucu. Then he turned south against the Huacrachucu and the Conchuco before returning to the lands of the Huamachucu to begin the attack on the Waylya from their northwest. Resistance had been rather varied. It was limited among the first few tribes but began to grow as they moved south and was quite stiff from the Huacrachucu and Conchuco. The Waylya had stoutly contested Henry’s entrance into their land, but once his forces broke through the passes, the action dissolved into desperate rear guard action. Had we not cut them off from their capital, he very likely would have had to reduce the city with cannon. Theodore also mentioned that the Chacha were rather light-skinned, although not quite as light as me. I found that interesting and hoped to see them one day. I told Theodore that it would appear Henry was quite indefatigable in his conquests, unlike his younger brother Ignace, who seemed to favor a more leisurely pace. He had heard that Ignace was not really expected to get that far south anyway.

Theodore looked tired to me and I asked him if he was ready for some time off yet. He said that, while it was tempting, he understood that our next foe would be the best yet and he didn’t want to miss out on them. He elaborated that there was a mountain-people called the Inka who were conquering their way in our direction. We should find their army just south of the Pinco. It seemed that they sent ambassadors ahead of their army to urge surrender to avoid unpleasant consequences. Henry captured one of their ambassadors in the capital of the Conchuco, and he had the temerity to threaten us with destruction if we did not surrender. The size of our army did not seem to give him pause either, although he was a bit discomfited by our horses. It was at that point that Henry sent for our tumen, just in case the Inka army was larger than our spies had reported. It also turned out that the Inka, too, used spies and Henry’s scouts had intercepted a few of them as well. Now that he mentioned it, I was reminded of a few rather suspicious-looking characters we had encountered on our march who seemed to be observing us from a distance with much interest and remarked on it to Theodore. He felt it likely that we had also been observed by Inka spies and was surprised that they had not tried to fall on us before we could link up with the Ordu. I assured him that we had scouts out in all directions and no force was going to fall on us unaware.

Once Henry was ready, we began to retrace our steps south with the rest of the army in our wake followed by the remains of the Waylya army. My jagun was toward the back this time, so I could just relax and enjoy the ride. I wondered about the Inka. Llapchillulli was still with us, although he would be leaving us soon to return home since he was no longer of much use as an interpreter among these mountain tribes. He had never heard of the Inka, but he assured me that most of the mountain tribes in the south were tough fighters and not inclined to surrender readily.

Some time later, we were again moving through the lands of the Ocro and Lampa. We set up camp near their southeastern frontier and scouts were sent out to find the enemy. After a few days, they reported back that they could only find a small force (perhaps five thousand men) occupying a strong point a day’s ride from the frontier. Henry was puzzled and sent the scouts back out again. He considered his options for a few days, then decided to attempt a trap. He assumed that the small force was a decoy, although he could not imagine how the main enemy force had eluded the scouts. He ordered my tumen to go and besiege the enemy strongpoint alone. The rest of the Ordu would follow us and camp a few hours’ ride from the strongpoint and would fall on the enemy’s main force as soon as it materialized to attack our tumen.

As we moved out the next morning (my jagun was in the middle), Suchix stopped by to tell me that Bisdah was not pleased by the assignment and had asked to be replaced, but Henry had refused. I asked if Bisdah thought we were being sent into a trap, but Suchix felt he was merely looking for an excuse to get away from what he called “the suicidal” Maya. I noticed that Bisdah had sent our tumen’s scouts out, so perhaps there was more to this than Suchix thought. In any case, we reached the strongpoint near dusk and quickly invested it. The enemy made no sortie during that first night. The next morning, Bisdah and his staff went around our lines to look over the strongpoint. I took the opportunity to look it over also. It was not too impressive. It was obviously thrown up quickly and without much thought. The location wasn’t bad; it was on a somewhat isolated hill that was truncated on top. Still, it was only about a hundred feet up from the valley floor. They had positioned large rocks around their perimeter, either for defense, or to roll down on us if we attacked. It was rather obvious that a few rounds with the cannon would reduce the strongpoint quickly, but Bisdah did not order up the cannon. Puzzled, I sought out Suchix and asked him what was going on.

“Bisdah has been ordered not to use the cannon against the enemy strongpoint,” he shrugged. “Henry doesn’t want to tip his hand until the main enemy force comes up.”

“Are we going to attack them at all?” I asked.
“I suppose so,” he replied.

We did nothing for a few days but surround their hill out of slingshot range. Bisdah kept sending out scouts, but none reported any sighting of the enemy. Some did not return, however, and that increased his agitation. On the fourth night, I was making my rounds of my jagun’s perimeter when I couldn’t help noticing the eerie quiet. The men had turned in for the night and only the sentries were up. There was no sound from the men except for the occasional snore and no sound from the horses except for the occasional whicker, but there were none of the usual natural sounds outside the camp. I crept out to one of the sentries. He had also noticed the change and was on high alert. Unfortunately, it was a moonless and cloudy night and the darkness was unremitting. I doubled the sentries and reported to Suchix what I had noticed. He shrugged and said that perhaps our trap had finally caught something. If it had, I should tell him in the morning. I reluctantly turned in, giving instructions that I should be awakened at first light.

The next morning, we were enshrouded in a mist at dawn, which revealed little. I reinforced the sentries again, but no one could see anything. Suchix wandered over to where I was straining to see through the mist and observed that I need not worry any longer, a scout had slipped into camp and assured him that we were completely surrounded by a force that was perhaps three times the size of ours. I asked if he knew what Bisdah planned to do. He did not. I got the men up and ready. I assumed we would likely charge through them on horseback and fan out around them in our usual way cutting them down with arrows and keeping them busy until Henry came up with the rest of the men. I was wrong.

Within a few hours, the mist burned off and it was quite plain that we were indeed surrounded. The enemy soldiers were dressed like ordinary mountain tribe peasants except for a sort of helmet often with a red wool fringe decoration; more of the wool fringe was tied below their knees and around their ankles. They all carried a small shield with a geometric design on it, wore a plate of wood or metal on their chest and back and some of them seemed to be wearing cotton “armor” like that worn in Anahuac. They were close enough that we were within the range of their slings, and they all seemed to be armed and ready with them. I wondered what they were waiting for. I also wondered what Bisdah was doing. Looking over in his direction, I could see that he was studying the enemy and assumed orders would be coming at any moment. I looked over to Suchix and found him looking toward Bisdah also. Finally, one of the enemy leaders stood up on a little hill and began to harangue us. (Actually, I had no idea what he was saying, but it sounded like a harangue.) His men all stood quietly listening to him.

At last I noticed some movement from Bisdah. He seemed to be giving orders to messengers to take to the minghan commanders. Then I noticed the horses were being gathered and brought to the northern part of our lines. Finally, I got word from Suchix of our orders. We were to stampede our horses to the north through the enemy lines and remain behind to fight on foot. The horses would only be guided by a single jagun from the northernmost minghan. I couldn’t believe such stupidity. I was certain that the only survivors would be from that lucky jagun. It wouldn’t be mine; our minghan was just south of the northernmost. The horses were soon in position and Bisdah gave the men the signal to start. The enemy leader was still lecturing us, but his lecture ended abruptly as a rain of arrows descended on him just as the horses set off.

Immediately a rain of stones came down on us from all sides. Our shields deflected these quite well although an occasional stone found a target. We responded more effectively with arrows, deadly at this close range. Seeing their disadvantage, their leaders sent the enemy charging against us. They came at us swinging a strange weapon made of as many as five weights of stone, wood, or copper wrapped in leather and attached to each other by a leather cord. (I found out later that they called it an aillo.) They threw this at our feet and drew their clubs as they closed with us with the hope of entangling us so they could easily kill us. It might have worked, but we simply stepped ahead of the fallen, and they quickly cut themselves free with their swords or knives. Soon we were engaged all along our lines. It was clear we were getting the best of it, but we were still outnumbered badly, and we began to fall back into more compact lines. Soon the enemy in the fortification sortied out and we found ourselves fighting on an internal front as well. We continued to sort ourselves out into an almost bow-shaped line which gradually became a pinched circle.

The enemy’s weapons were not nearly as good as ours, but their sheer numbers slowly wore us down and I could see that, after only about two hours of fighting, we were down by almost half. I found myself glancing to the north to see if our relief column was in sight, but they were not. More and more men fell, but our organization held. Glancing around, it looked like Suchix’s minghan was down to a jagun after four hours of fighting, and still the relief did not come. The enemy kept expecting us to surrender, but we continued desperately and seemed to be taking quite a few of them with us. Finally, in sheer exhaustion, they drew back from us and sent an emissary to discuss surrender terms. Bisdah ran him through with his sword, and the battle was rejoined. This time they charged with spears. These were not hard to parry with our shields, but weariness was telling on the men. I don’t know how I was able to keep deflecting blows and delivering sword thrusts, for I was completely numb with exhaustion. I noticed the enemy soldiers were chewing something that seemed to have renewed their strength considerably. Many more of our men were falling in this attack. After about another hour, there was a shout from the enemy and they suddenly pulled back and ran for the fortification as our reinforcements finally arrived and swooped down on them.

They did not reach the fortification, since we had wandered some distance from it during the battle, and fast as they were, they could not outrun horses. I looked around at the remnant of our tumen. There were perhaps two hundred left standing. Most, like me, were barely able to move. Our dead littered the ground along with the enemy. I sank down in exhaustion and looked around to see if any of my jagun still lived. I couldn’t see any of them. I couldn’t see Bisdah or Suchix or Ah Chel either. I hoped they were simply unrecognizable as I’m sure I was.

After about half an hour, I rose up and began to look to the wounded. My jagun had, indeed, been wiped out. Bisdah and Suchix had also been killed. I was the only living jagun commander, although there was a wounded minghan commander. Ah Chel was badly wounded and I stayed with him until he died. Two arban commanders also survived, both slightly wounded. When the final tally was made, there were 143 of us left, not counting the jagun that had broken through with the horses at the start of the battle.

We were ordered to form ourselves in ranks and Henry and his staff rode by us to honor us. He passed by closely enough that I could finally get a good look at him. He was as short as my father but was stouter with a darker complexion and almost black hair. He seemed rather serious and looked each one of us in the eye as he passed. I noticed he gave me a strange look and then the ghost of a smile as he passed by. Our tumen was then ordered to return to the capital to be honored by the Khan himself. When the show was over, I sought out a stream to wash myself and found that, not surprisingly, I was covered with bruises and welts. We were given the position of honor in camp that night behind Henry’s tent. Theodore sought me out once he had finished his duties.

“I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I saw you still standing as the Inka disengaged. I can’t understand why Bisdah sent away his horses and fought on foot.”

 

“Neither can I,” I replied. “Perhaps he had a death wish.”

 

“Cousin, tell me honestly, do you want to return to the capital with your tumen, or would you now join my staff?”

 

“If my jagun was still in existence, I would go, but if I have a choice, I would just as soon stay with you. I can’t imagine you making such idiotic tactical choices.”

“Excellent, come with me now.”
“I should tell the acting commander of the tumen.”
“Don’t bother, I’ll send him a message. Let’s pack up your equipment and get you over to my tumen at once.”

I was a little surprised at his hurry, but I went along with it. Much as I loved and admired the Maya, I never wanted to be a part of their tumen again. There is not a suicidal bone in my body. Of course, I was convinced that there was more to this debacle than any Maya death wish, but I had finally learned to keep such opinions to myself. Theodore set me up right next to his tent and promoted me to minghan commander, exchanging my tattered and stained red sash for a green one. Of course, I wouldn’t actually command anyone, but I could be called on to do so if needed. He took very good care of me, giving me very light duties and insisting that I join him for meals. His meals were much better than I had been used to and I began to fill out a bit. I told him about the substance that the Inka had been chewing and he explained that Henry had found out about it a while ago, but had hesitated in giving it to the men. It was a leaf from a plant called locally the coca, which was chewed with a bit of lime powder. The juice seemed to give one much endurance. Henry had just recently decided to let the men use it, mostly because of the altitude-related exhaustion that had been afflicting the men. It would give us an edge against the Inka and the other local tribes who all freely used it. Theodore didn’t feel he needed it, however. I mentioned that it had been available in Tamalameque, but I didn’t realize what it was for.

We stayed on the battlefield only long enough to bury our dead. The enemy dead were left to the scavengers. Among these was a very large vulture with white and black feathers called locally a “cuntur.” It was a very impressive bird. We destroyed the little Inka fortification and started south again. I was pleased to note that Theodore’s tumen was not in the van.

16
The Inka Campaign 94 K
(Southern Peru, 1462)

As we rode south, Theodore told me that my brother Theodore would soon be visiting me. I asked how he knew. He said that his brother had written him a letter mentioning it. He added that his poor brother had somehow gotten the idea that I had been killed in action and had urged him to comfort my brother on his arrival. He had been quite worried when he got the letter, since it arrived while my tumen was besieging the Inka fortification and he thought that perhaps George had become prescient. He was very pleased to have gotten off a note to assure him of my continued good health and the heroism of my late tumen. Still, he was very glad to have me with him where he could keep an eye on me.

This was very interesting information. I would, of course, be glad to see my brother when he arrived, but it was obvious to me now that it was no mistake I was in the Maya tumen or that Bisdah made the suicidal stand. The Maya were always considered expendable and it was expected that few of them would return. Apparently, their commanders were expected to do all in their power to see that expectation was realized. All things considered, it was reasonable to assume that, since I stuck out prominently among them because of my height, I would surely die with them. I would have enjoyed seeing the expression on George’s face when he received Theodore’s reassuring letter. However, it was obvious he wanted me dead and it was a good thing I was in Theodore’s tumen. I was still sure George loved his brother more than he hated me.

Returning to less sinister subjects, it was a little difficult to figure out the Inka imperial organization, but it seemed that we had entered their northern province called Huanuco, after a tribe of roughly that name that predominated in the province. There were also elements of a few other tribes in isolated spots, as if they had been put there on purpose. We met no more resistance in the province, but then we went directly to the provincial capital instead of visiting each village.

We quickly invested the capital, but it proved to be deserted. A closer examination revealed that it was a city that had recently been laid out and was still very much under construction. There was a large plaza in the center of the city with a platform in its middle. On the eastern side of the plaza there were palaces and a temple all of finely fitted stones with thatch roofs. On the northern side of the plaza, there was more housing, but this was of stone set in mud, also with thatch roofs and in varying stages of completion. Farther north, outside of the city was a village near terraced mountains just green with young crops (it was now early spring here). To the west of the town, we found storage buildings. Many were empty but some contained the chun~o tubers, called papas in Quechua, dried for storage. There was a fortification not far from the capital, but it was still under construction and had also been abandoned.

We finally rounded up a few of the locals and, with some difficulty, discovered that the Inka had only recently conquered the Huanuco, and the locals were quite willing to switch sides since we were winning. They also warned us that the Inka still commanded a large army and would try to destroy us. Henry assured them that we could handle anything the Inka might send us and urged them to return to their villages and tend their crops, for we would not disturb them in any way as long as they remained loyal to us. They went off much cheered and I heard that eventually most of the villagers did return home to tend their crops.

As we approached the next province, we were having some difficulty with scouts. Too many of them were not returning. There was little ground cover in this area, but the rough terrain provided ample opportunity for ambush. Henry became more wary and tried to recruit locals to scout for us. This yielded better results, but information came in more slowly since they did not ride horses, and, of course, there was always the possibility that they might give us false intelligence. Still, we continued southward slowly, finally crossing the unremarkable border into the next province, Cincay-Qoca, after about a month.

This province seemed to center on a large lake called Cincay Qoca (Lynx Lake in the Quechua language which seemed to increasingly dominate in the highlands). Living mostly in tiny scattered settlements on the plateau about the lake and on islands in the lake was a small tribe with a totally incomprehensible language that had been named after the lake by the Inka. They were a pastoral people, in general, herding flocks of the lama and the smaller versions called alpaca, although they also raised some centli and the papa. They offered us no resistance and expressed gratitude that we had rid them of the hated Inka and, of course, promised undying loyalty to the Khan.

We encountered elements of the Tarama tribe in the eastern part of this province as well as in the province to the south named for them. They also herded to some extent, but mostly farmed in the valleys east of the Cincay Qoca Plateau. They also proved to have settlements on the slopes of the eastern mountains that descended into the jungles, but it was some time before we found out about these, since there was no real tribal organization among the Tarama, just small, discrete and independent villages. They, too, were not sorry to see the Inka driven out and offered to lend us guides to lead us on to the next province. Henry accepted the offer, warning them of the dire consequences of any treachery.

The next province was very different. It was called Wanka after the dominant tribe. They were a mostly agricultural people, living in densely populated towns and cities in the river valleys south of the Cincay Qoca Plateau. They were delighted to see us and quickly volunteered their young men to help us rid the world of the Inka. They did not seem to have any dominant organization, but were many separate subgroups that in the past had formed shifting alliances to fight among themselves. They had even been unable to unify in the face of the Inka invasion and thus had fallen to them easily. They also promised to guide us through their lands. As usual, Henry warned them against any treachery, but they loudly protested their loyalty to their deliverers. It all sounded rather hollow to me, but it was prudent of them to defer to the largest army.

It was while we were passing through the lands of the Wanka and were, in fact, camped outside their capital, Haton Xauxa, that my brother caught up with us. He rode up with the supply train and made straight for Theodore’s tent. He reasoned that Theodore would know where to find me. When he saw me come out of the tent, he grabbed me with a bear hug and squeezed the breath out of me. He then stood me away a little to have a look at me, and then hugged me again. He told me that he had come as soon as he was told that I had been assigned to the Maya tumen. I had written to my sister Mathilde when I had reached the encampment of the Ordu a few years ago and told her how things were going. She had no idea I was in any danger and had only mentioned my assignment to Theodore when he was visiting her last year, innocently asking if he knew anyone in the Maya Ordu. He had sent a letter of protest to George immediately and then set off to rescue me. He congratulated me on my survival and my promotions. He admitted that he didn’t think I would do that well in the army, and he was very proud of me. He added that he was sure our father was also proud of me. He blamed himself for not accompanying me so he could make sure I was not compromised. I reminded him that I was only given short time to report and he could not leave his patients on such short notice. Besides, I was well aware what George had in mind for me so I planned to stay very close to his brother.

“That is very shrewd of you, Karl,” he told me. “The only person in the world who loves and trusts George is Theodore. George would not want any harm to come to him. I suspect his tumen is the most intact in the Ordu.” “Yes, it is, almost full strength after two years of campaigning. It isn’t really necessary, though. He is an excellent warrior. I would gladly follow him into battle.”

“Well, if you do see any more real action, do what you can to protect him; it might end your exile. But even if it doesn’t, don’t stay here when he returns home. Go with him to the border, then go north and wander about the Khakhanate for a few years.”
“Theodore wants to see out the campaign against the Inka; then he’ll go back. I like your idea. Most of the Ani’ Yun’-wiya who went on campaign did just that. It sounds very inviting. Maybe I can find that girl I once saw who was as pale as I am.”

“You know, I saw such a girl once. She was a little younger than you and traveling with a merchant, her father or guardian I assumed. She reminded me of your mother because she seemed to have the same melancholy air about her. She served dinner when I spent the evening at their encampment, but the merchant never introduced her to me or paid her much attention. I wonder now if she was a servant or even a slave.”

“That must be her!” I nearly shouted. “She was traveling in a small train of wagons. You saw her! Where was she? When was it? What was the merchant’s name? What do you know about him?”

“Well, let me see.” Theodore was surprised by my excitement. “I was about two days’ south of the old Snake Ordu encampment. They have moved a little farther east since then. It was four or five years ago; I was on my way back to Anahuac. I think you were back already, or on your way also. Yes, you were. I remember you were already gone when I visited Iskagua and Ghigooie. I can’t think of the merchant’s name, but he was from one of those northeastern tribes with the dreadful names, like Mathilde’s husband, Aspenquid. He was rather sophisticated, though, for he had many fine goods, and although a little taciturn, he was friendly to me. I remember he called the girl by an odd name, Kharrotta or Khallotta or something like that. I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you. I would guess the girl is probably married by now, so I hope you don’t have your heart set on her.”

“I saw her once many years ago, on the way back from telling Mathilde about our mother’s death. I only saw her for a moment, but it was like a moment frozen in my mind. I could never forget her. I must find her and speak to her. If she is married, I will not interfere, of course, but I will offer her and her husband my friendship. Still, I can’t imagine that we aren’t meant to be together.”

“I didn’t think it possible, but I do believe you are more of a romantic than Mathilde. You must have spent too much time with her when you were growing up. However, if I hear anything about the girl or remember anything else about her or the merchant, I will contact you immediately, if you can be contacted, of course.”

“I’m just so glad someone else saw her—I was beginning to wonder if it had all been an illusion. But let me assure you, if she is still alive, I will find her, no matter how long it takes.”

I finally recovered my manners and asked after his family and all the relatives. I had a few more nieces and nephews and even a couple of grandnieces and grandnephews. Our father was somewhere in the far northwest visiting my mother’s family. My Ani’ Yun’-wiya brother, Cimnashote, was on campaign in the east and doing well from all accounts. It would be good to compare campaigns with him one day. Cousin Theodore finally wandered by and he and my brother greeted each other warmly. He invited Theodore to stay with us for the last leg of the campaign and then we could all return together. He gave it some thought and agreed. He presented himself to Henry, who welcomed him stiffly (they already knew each other and were not friends), then set to work dealing with any health problems in our tumen.

After a short stay we left the capital and continued south. The Wanka provided guides as well as auxiliaries and we traversed their province without incident. There was a large population in the province and they eagerly provided us with food whenever we stopped for the night. It seemed they were expected to do this for the Inka and assumed we would require the same. Henry took some of it but encouraged them to keep the rest in storage for future need. They were somewhat bewildered by his generosity, and it took quite a while to convince them that they had not offended him in some way.

Now that I was part of Theodore’s staff, I saw a lot more of my cousin Henry. It was difficult to measure the man. He was neither likable nor obnoxious, neither friendly nor hostile, neither warm nor cold. He seemed efficient yet a bit hesitant. He was well organized but clearly not sure of himself. He relied heavily on his main advisor, a man called Dehahuit. Dehahuit, a tall, muscular, middle-aged man, was half Kadohadacho and half Tairona. His father, a Kadohadacho named Tarxar, had taken part in the original conquest of the Khanate of the Clouds and had remained behind to help govern it. He was greatly valued by my uncle Theodore and had been his chief advisor. Dehahuit had proved to be valuable to my disreputable cousin, the current Khan of the Clouds, and had been sent along to make sure Henry didn’t make any mistakes. He looked at me as if I were a bug that was not worth the effort to squash. He looked at Henry as if he were an idiot just barely able to cinch up his own pants. It was obvious that Henry both resented and feared his “advisor” and in his position, I could see why. I was not allowed in the “strategy” sessions of the tumen commanders, but Theodore told me that what usually happened was that Henry greeted everyone, then turned the meeting over to Dehahuit, who merely barked “Henry’s” orders at them and then dismissed them. Theodore could not find any fault with the man’s tactics, however, - it was quite obvious that he knew what he was doing. Apparently, all the campaign decisions I had been told were Henry’s were actually taken by Dehahuit.

Acapipioltzin would come around to visit on occasion, and he and Theodore would reminisce about the various things they had done when they were boys together. They would graciously fill me in on the details and always included me in anything they did together. I did notice him looking at me strangely once in a while as if he wanted to ask me something, but nothing came of it until one night when he came upon me while I was checking over the perimeter of my tumen. His tumen was always placed next to ours and he happened to be making his rounds at the same time as I was. Seeing me, he walked over and chatted amiably about nothing noteworthy for a few minutes. Then he paused for a moment and in the moonlight I could see him weighing whether to ask his question, but then he did.

“Cacalotl, you were in Tlatelolco when Uncle Henry died, weren’t you?”

 

“In a way,” I answered. “I arrived while the palace was besieged. I think he was murdered during that time, but I’m not sure.”

 

“You would have thought that the murderer would have had some sort of prearranged signal to indicate his success to the mob and thus embolden them and perhaps dishearten the palace guard.”

 

“That makes sense, but George implied that he came upon the murder just as it happened, but too late to prevent it.”

“Yes, I suppose that is what he indicated. What do you think happened?”
“Who am I to question the word of my Khan?”
“Tell me, Cacalotl”—he looked at me steadily—“are you in exile?”
“What gives you that impression?” I squirmed.
“I thought so.” He smiled ruefully. “I’ll do what I can for you. Discreetly, of course.”
“Thank you, sir. You are most kind.”
“Did you ever wonder what it would be like had Theodore been born first?”
“I suspect the same man would be Khan now.”
“Exactly. Thank you for your insights. You are wise beyond your years.”
“You are too generous. I have learned much in the last few years.”
“Yes, haven’t we all.”

He drifted off and never brought up the subject again. I was glad that he could see through the miscreant George and wondered how many others suspected him of patricide. I doubted if Acapipioltzin could do anything to lift my exile, but was glad he wanted to do so. I found my brother and told him about our conversation. He was not surprised that Acapipioltzin had figured things out, but my brother urged me to avoid any other such discussions with anyone else from Anahuac, especially Theodore. He would never believe his brother capable of such perfidy and I would lose Theodore’s very valuable friendship. My brother decided that he would accompany me to the Khakhanate to make sure I arrived safely. Once there, he felt I would not be bothered as long as I kept my mouth shut about George. I assured him I would not even mention George to anyone anywhere. My brother was reassured and returned to his duties.

South of the Wanka was the province of Angara where our Wanka guides told us we would find the tribe of the same name and a scattering of other tribes that the Inka had transplanted to keep an eye on the warlike Angara. Actually, except for a few stray old folk who were considered too ancient to move, the province was deserted. It was eerie passing through lifeless towns, villages, and cities with untended crops in the fields and terraces surrounding them. It continued this way all through this province and the next one, Vilcas, and into the next one Andahualya. We were filing into and around the deserted capital of the latter when word finally came that the Inka were in position a little to our south on the gentle slopes of a snowcapped mountain. I rode ahead with Theodore and a few of the other tumen commanders to look over the enemy position.

We came upon them some thirty li or so south of the city. They filled the area between two small rivers that seemed to originate on the mountain. There were tens of thousands of them encamped openly and confidently waiting for our approach. Their numbers impressed Theodore. They outnumbered us at least three to one. They saw us looking them over and made no move against us as if they wanted us to reconnoiter them. One of our Wanka guides told us that the Inka relied heavily on intimidation and hoped that the sight of their encampment would make us surrender or, at least, despair. We assured the man that here in the open they didn’t have a chance against us. In fact, if they had twice as many men, they still wouldn’t have a chance. He was clearly surprised at us and began to look on us in awe. The truth is, it was no bravado, there weren’t nearly enough of them to give us any trouble. The first salvo of cannon would likely send them scurrying to the rear and we would run them down on our horses and wipe them out. Had they repaired to their stone forts and cities, they would have been much more difficult to defeat. Out in the open, they were sitting ducks.

Henry (or actually, Dehahuit) decided to let them stew for a couple of days while we rested up in the town of Andahuaylas. Our scouts kept an eye on the enemy to make sure they didn’t try anything. But they were quite content to wait us out. In the late afternoon of the second day, a small delegation ventured out of their camp toward our position and asked for an audience with our leader. Theodore happened to be present for the meeting and told me what occurred. The Inka delegation was led by a relative of their ruler (oddly the ruler’s title was the Inka—as if the tribe got their name from him). The emissary presented himself to Henry and generously acknowledged that he could see that we were too frightened to venture out of the city to fight the Great Inka. He could certainly understand our plight, as could that most generous sovereign, Inka Pachacutec. Even though we had greatly offended him and even though we had killed one of his own sons, he was prepared to forgive us and accept our surrender. The response must have really shocked the poor man. Henry and the others present burst out laughing when his words were translated for them. When Henry recovered himself, he told the man that he really hoped Pachacutec survived our attack tomorrow; it would be a shame to lose a man with such a remarkable sense of humor. He then waved the man away before he could say anything else and he was escorted back to his lines. Theodore said that the man was visibly pale. He also mentioned that Dehahuit had not laughed, but did not seem to mind the laughter.

Once the man was gone, Dehahuit called for a council of tumen commanders. Everyone got their orders and preparations were made to meet the enemy early the next morning. Well before dawn, we were in motion. Our tumen was the first to move since we would be on the right flank and had the farthest to go, almost twenty li. We each took three horses so we could move quickly without jading the horses we would need in battle. We arrived in position just as the sky was beginning to lighten. We changed horses and sent the one we had ridden to the rear. We would each have an extra horse for pursuit. Acapipioltzin’s tumen was on our left and the others stretched out beyond it. Each tumen covered about three li of front. We were all lined up when dawn broke sufficiently to lighten up the view. We began to move forward in total silence except for the jingling of our equipment. The Inka were formed in groups six li up the slope from us. We steadily approached them until we were within a few hundred yards of their closest ranks.

At this point we could see on the slope above a man borne on a litter that glittered as though it were covered with gold. He motioned to one of his staff and the man moved forward a little and began haranguing us much like had happened at the small fortification when I was still with the Maya tumen. We remained in place while the cannon were moved into position behind us. Then on a signal, we all turned around and moved behind the cannon. The harangue continued all this time, although I noticed he paused when we turned and paused again when we revealed the cannon. Obviously, they had no idea what they were, but they looked threatening. Once again, we did not wait for the harangue to finish, but as soon as all was ready, the cannon were touched off. Each shot cut a bloody path through the packed ranks. Some formations turned and ran, but most held. One of the shots plowed a furrow all the way to and through the haranguer and almost struck the Inka.

It was obvious they were stunned by this weapon, but appeared determined to tough it out. Since they remained in place, we fired another round into them and finally their unit leaders showed initiative and ordered a charge. As they started raggedly forward, we loaded the cannon with shrapnel and, as soon as they came into effective range, fired a devastating salvo into them that shattered whole ranks. Still they came on and received a second salvo before the cannon were pulled back about a hundred yards as we fired arrows into them while following the cannon. We again pulled up behind the cannon and they again fired off two rounds of shrapnel into the thinning ranks. Amazingly, they still came and we repeated the exercise once more. The third time was the charm, and after the next round, the survivors turned and fled. It was, of course, too late. We stormed after them cutting them down from behind with our swords. Eventually we came upon the abandoned litter of the Inka. Relentlessly we pursued the fleeing enemy killing all we found without mercy.

The only reason they weren’t all killed was because the far side of the mountain was too steep for the horses. We had to dismount to descend into the deep valley below. Still, we relentlessly pursued until we reached the river. It was too deep to ford and the enemy had cut the crude rope bridges across it. All of those caught on our (the western) side of the river were killed. We estimated that not more than ten thousand of them got away, and most of these were the ones that fled with the very first salvo from the cannon. We didn’t know whether we had killed the Inka. He did not appear to be a young man, so it was hard to believe he escaped. My tumen swept the riverbank upstream until dusk, then turned back. There was a tiny village on our side of the river near where a small river emptied into the larger one. It was deserted, so we camped there for the night.

The next morning our pontoon train came up (it had been no minor feat bringing it over that mountain) and bridged the river (it was called the Pachachaca). Three of the tumen crossed the river and swept along its valley looking for any of the enemy. Our tumen and that of Acapipioltzin were ordered to continue the search for any survivors on our side of the river. It was a waste, of course, although we did turn up a few of the villagers. They protested that they had no involvement in the battle and were hiding from the Inka when we found them. There were women and children among them, so they probably were hiding from us, but we let them go and told them to replant their crops. The fleeing Inka and the pursuing Mongols had ruined their terraced fields. I think it was almost too late for them to try again. That night we crossed the river and picked up our bridge. The tumen on the far side had rounded up a few of the enemy, and they were killed on the spot, but it was only a fraction of those that got away.

We had suffered very few casualties in our tumen, and most of those were wounds. There were only about two hundred of our men killed and about three times that many wounded in the whole Ordu. Word of the lopsided victory spread very quickly in the highlands and even the most loyal tribes began to defect from the Inka. As we marched toward the Inka capital, we were constantly met by delegations from their subject tribes offering their allegiance. All were accepted and ordered to provide a token force of auxiliaries. We were greatly slowed by all the reinforcements, but it made sense to get them all in on the final kill.

Our track led us east down the Pachachaca, then south up one of its tributaries, then east through a sort of impromptu pass among the high mountains, then down a tributary to a major river, the Apurimac. We were now in the Inka home province. We crossed the river on our pontoon bridge, just upstream from the remnants of the Inka rope bridge and followed a rather narrow road paved with stone along another tributary upstream to its source and continued generally east over a very rugged pass (the road actually had steps in places) between the very high mountains to the north and the moderately high ridge to the south to a high plateau with a river emptying into a fair-sized lake. The lake fed a river that flowed north to join another main river, the Urubamba. East of the lake, the road followed a river that joined its draining river upstream to its headwaters. There on the plain below us was the end of the road, the Inka capital, Cuzco.

It was mostly situated between two streams (the Huatanay on the west and the Tullumayo on the east), which joined together about a hundred yards before being joined by a third stream (the Chuncumayo). Some of the city had spilled over the two rivers and was approaching the third. The whole of it was rather more than a thousand yards long and at least as many wide. Our road entered the city in the part that had extended south over the Huatanay. Northwest of the city, on a hill dropping steeply to the Tullumayo, but more gently to the Huatanay was a large fortress. Our guides told us it was called Sacsahuaman. We couldn’t see from this angle, but it was likely more approachable from the northwest. From this angle it looked quite impregnable. It seemed to consist of a stone wall at the top of a ravine that was perhaps two hundred feet high. The city appeared deserted, but the fortress was fully manned.

Dehahuit sent the auxiliaries into the city to clear out any stragglers, but warned them not to touch the palace or the temples. They immediately set to looting and burning, but he didn’t seem to care. We descended directly to the Huatanay River and over our pontoon bridge across it. We then surrounded the fortress just out of sling range. I joined Theodore and the other tumen commanders and their staffs on a ride around the fortress. On the northwest side there was a broad open area before a high (perhaps twenty feet) wall extending all the way to the ravine on each side. The wall consisted of salient and retiring angles like a sawtooth. It was too thick to bring down with cannon fire and impossible to climb without ladders, which we immediately started to build. There was the beginning of a second wall outside the first. Three towers appeared to be under construction within the walls and were all above the level of the wall. The largest of these was round. There were three entrances through the wall, but these were in the recesses and would be very hard to force. It was an impressive fortress, but we would not have too much difficulty taking it. While looking over the position, we found out we had not killed the Inka. He appeared on the highest tower to look us over. While the ladders were being prepared, we also positioned the cannon to fire in high trajectory over the walls. There was a small hill on the north end of the open space in front of the fortress and a hill on the other side of the Tullumayo where we were able to place them to good effect. Of course, all this took a while, but within six days all was ready.

17
Conquest of the Inka and Return to Tamalameque, 95 K
(Cuzco, Peru to Northern Colombia, 1463)

At first light on the seventh day, the cannon opened up and shells began to rain down on the fortress. The cannoneers were trying to lob a shell right into the unfinished circular tower. They finally did, and it crumbled outwardly after a few direct hits. Once the sun was up, we began to move forward with the ladders. Acapipioltzin’s tumen was manning the ladders while we provided cover fire with arrows. We swept everyone off the wall and continuously fired over the wall to get those behind it. Before long, the wall was ours and Acapipioltzin’s men poured fire into the milling masses inside the wall. We followed them up the ladders and took over the cover fire as they climbed down the other side and closed with the enemy below. While I could see that our casualties were mounting, theirs were staggering.

It is always hard to see the whole picture from the heat of battle since one is necessarily very busy defending himself and killing the enemy. And even though they were hard-pressed, the enemy behind those in close combat kept showering us with stones and spears since we were better targets up on the wall. Of course, they were better targets for us as well and our larger shields were more help to us than their smaller ones were to them. Once the way was clear, we also got down off the wall and fought our way around the flanks to completely surround the enemy. Our front ranks cut them down with swords while the back ranks continued to shoot arrows into the packed ranks of the Inka. More than once as I dispatched one of them, another would drop to the ground already dead but held in place by the press. To my dismay, I noticed my cousin Theodore had worked his way into the front rank. I worked my way over to his side and tried to keep an eye on him.

Theodore and I were on the western side of the citadel within the walls and we eventually fought our way up to the ruins of the round tower. Quite a few of the enemy had been crushed by its fall. The carnage continued unabated. Even though our weapons were superior, the sheer packed mass made the work difficult and dangerous. The Inka fought desperately and fiercely with no thought to surrender. We kept shifting ranks so no one was exposed long enough to get too tired. The enemy could not afford the luxury. By now the ground was treacherously slippery with blood and gore and we would have seen our casualties mount quickly if the men who slipped had not fallen away from the enemy because of the slope of the land since we were generally fighting uphill.
Finally toward late morning, the signal was given to fall back. We reluctantly pulled back a few yards from the enemy, who were now packed tightly around the highest point in the citadel (some sort of large, uncompleted building) and looked to the horn blower in surprise. Then the signal came to finish them off with arrows. Once the remnant could see what was happening, they would have none of it and rushed down to close with us again. It was over in about another hour. The last one of them was cut down and we all sat down amidst the gore to rest while the tumen that was held in reserve moved in to tend our wounded and dispatch any enemy wounded. We had to assume the Inka was among the dead, although there was no way to tell.

My brother found me and when I saw the look of dismay on his face, I assured him I was relatively unhurt. I was covered with blood, but it wasn’t mine. Once I cleaned up, I found I only had a few welts and one shallow cut. My cousin Theodore was unscathed, but he too was covered with blood. I think I got most of my welts after he joined the fray. He, of course, did not need my help, but I had to make sure no harm came to him while I was anywhere near him.

While Acapipioltzin’s tumen had borne the brunt of the attack and had significant casualties (even he had been wounded slightly), we also had been well bloodied. About two thousand of our men were wounded, many seriously, and almost five hundred were dead, including many officers. It became necessary for me to take over one of the minghans. Theodore was quite pleased with his tumen’s performance and very happy to have finally taken part in a real battle rather than the more typical rout. I found nothing to rejoice about. War is a very ugly business, and while it is gratifying to notice you stood and fought rather than turned and ran, I couldn’t help thinking that there must be a better way to prove yourself. I sincerely hoped Theodore would not elect to further extend his tour of duty for I had definitely had enough of war at that time.

Our dead were buried, but the enemy was left (after being stripped of any valuables), and the large black-andwhite cuntur had themselves quite a feast. The city was really still in good shape since so much of it was made of dressed stone. All the thatch roofs had been burned and the insides of the houses were a mess. There was quite a bit of gold in the palace and in their main temple, and even more was found in the ruins of the citadel, but the looting auxiliaries had taken all from the private homes. Henry looked over the palace and temples and ordered that all the gold be removed and sent back to his father.

Word reached us that the Inka had been replaced by his son and they had no intention of giving up the struggle against us. It was hard to believe there were any of them left. The majority of their client states had either been conquered or shifted loyalty to us. But it turned out it was a religious thing with them, since the Inka was held to be a sort of god. Henry was not pleased, since he was hoping to end this conquest phase quickly. Dehahuit was not concerned. He ordered the auxiliaries to find and root out last of the Inka to prove their much-proclaimed loyalty. If they had any trouble, they could call on us to help. For now we would stay near the city until replacement tumen arrived. We would make ourselves useful by building permanent bridges across the streams around the city.

The bridge building was hard work since Dehahuit wanted them made of stone. We could have used the help of the Inka for this task, since obviously they were much better at it than we were. By the end of the local summer, we were finished and the replacements had reached us. While we were camped above the city, it had begun to rebuild. Some of the former inhabitants moved back in. A good yam was set up on the edge of town and the palace was cleared out and served as Henry’s headquarters. Occasionally one of the tumen had to move out and help reduce an Inka stronghold that was too difficult for the auxiliaries to handle, but I noticed neither our nor Acapipioltzin’s were called upon for this duty. I also found time to pick up a smattering of the Quechua language.

When the relief arrived, it was no less than five tumen that marched into our camp on the slopes west of the city. Among them was my long-ago acquaintance Tlapac, the great grandson of the legendary Smoking Mirror. He was commanding a minghan in a tumen of Olmeca led by his father Chlalcoatl. His younger brother, Tlilatl, was serving on his father’s staff. I thought he was a bit young, but he wasn’t much younger than I was when I started my training. I presented them to my cousin Theodore and found they already knew him, my brother, and Acapipioltzin quite well.
We all shared the evening meal together, and I asked Chlalcoatl how it happened that a governor was leading a tumen on campaign. He replied that the new Khan felt that all governors should go on campaign every ten years or so to prove they still had what was needed to rule effectively. I didn’t think that made much sense, for ruling a province is nothing like commanding a tumen, but I was not about to comment on orders from the Khan. From the tone of his voice, I could tell Chlalcoatl was not particularly convinced by the logic either. I quickly changed the subject to fill them in on the campaign so far. My cousin Theodore warmed up to this subject, and between us, we told them all that had happened the last few years. I didn’t dare ask how things were in Anahuac, but I did ask after Chlalcoatl’s wife and daughters, and I asked Tlapac about our mutual friend, Kinahiwi. Chlalcoatl said that he had sent his wife and daughters to visit their Ani’ Yun’-wiya relatives while he was on campaign. Tlapac said Kinahiwi was on campaign in the Khanate of the Green Mist. I mentioned my Ani’ Yun’-wiya brother, Cimnashote, was also on campaign there, although I suspected their relative rank would preclude any contact between them. We talked for a while about our mutual Ani’ Yun’-wiya friends, but kept it brief since it would mean nothing to cousin Theodore and Acapipioltzin. They, then, reminisced about their visits to Chlalcoatl’s family when they were boys. We had a good visit.

After dinner, my brother took me for a walk and told me that, while I had done a good job of getting us off an awkward subject, I had to be more careful. It would be best if I talked less and listened more whenever our cousin was around. He didn’t think Theodore caught Chlalcoatl’s tone of voice, but it was a dangerous situation because our cousin trusted his brother and an innocent question from him could have disastrous consequences for others. He urged me not to be seen alone with Chlalcoatl or his sons. That bothered me, but I knew he was right, so the next day I convinced cousin Theodore to accompany me while I showed them all the sights in the city and citadel, Sacsahuaman. Tlapac wanted to know what the name of the citadel meant. I knew it had something to do with a hawk, but didn’t really know what. On asking around, we found out it meant the “Throne of the Hawk.” It was a good name for the site, although lately, it was more of the table of the cuntur. The big birds had done their work well; all that remained of our late foes were piles of bleached bones.

After several more days, our two tumen were officially relieved and we prepared to march back to Tamalameque. The other three tumen would follow a few days apart. Since the area was not felt to be completely pacified, it was felt we should stay together at least until we passed through the new territories. Actually, Theodore and Acapipioltzin wanted to keep the units together all the way, so we could march through Tamalameque in triumph. I suspected Khan George would meet us and lead the procession through the city as if he had been somehow involved. I also suspected that if they could keep the tumen together all the way back to Anahuac, the other Khan George would do the same thing there. Of course, I never said a thing, even to my brother.

The journey back was very long. Somehow, you lose track of how far you have gone over the years, but we had to travel over five thousand li to get back to Tamalameque. It took us the rest of the season of spring and all of summer to do so. Of course, much of that spring was actually fall, but we were in the great Yuma Valley in last days of summer. Once again during our journey north, we passed through the area where the seasons reverse. I can’t say that I noticed anything this time either.

The road we traveled went all along the mountains from one valley to another, always with high mountains on either side. Once we got past the Angara Province, the land was flourishing, all the rivers were bridged, either permanently or with pontoons, the villages and towns were bustling, yams were working or being built, the roads were filled with merchants, and everyone greeted us enthusiastically. Of course, it is best to greet an army of fifteen thousand warriors enthusiastically. Needless to say, we had no trouble anywhere along the road.

There was only one interesting encounter for me during this trip. It occurred in the Andahualya Province. We were camped on our old bone-strewn battlefield south of the provincial capital. Feeling the need to speak to my guide, I had wandered off and started climbing the mountain above the battlefield. I stopped at a point about a third of the way up and sat down. After looking about for a while, I turned within to seek counsel. After I got my questions answered, my guide told me to descend the mountain on the western side. I was puzzled by this suggestion, but didn’t hesitate to do as he said. Within a short period of time, I came upon an old Inka sitting in a sort of niche in the rocks. He was covered with a beautifully colored and decorated blanket. As I got near I could see that he was an old man. He looked up as I approached and sighed deeply.
“Wiracocha is merciful,” he said in Quechua. “Aim your weapon truly, young man, I am ready to die.”

“I am not here to kill you, sir.”
“You have been doing little else since entering our lands, why stop now?”
“You are defeated, there is no point in killing any more of you.”
“Do you not realize that I am Uillac Uma, so you must kill me?”

“You correctly suggest that we have little tolerance of priests, especially so called high priests. But I have had enough of killing. I don’t think my spirit guide sent me to you to kill you.”

“But I deserve to die.”
“Why?”

“I have failed the Inka. It was I who performed the calpa near this very spot. I read the lungs and entrails of the lama. It was I who told the Inka he could not fail on this mountain. It was I who was responsible for the destruction of the army, the death of the Inka. It would be a mercy for you to kill me.”

“Perhaps you read your entrails correctly. Is it not possible that your god wanted your army destroyed here so that you would not go on resisting for years and bring far more death to your people? Better a clean decisive battle and surrender than an endless bout of futile banditry.”

“Why would a god wish those that serve him to be killed by those that do not? The fault is mine. I misread the signs.”

“Perhaps we too serve your god, but under another name.”
“What is your god?”
“He is called Tengri. He is a sky god looking down on us, protecting us and guiding us.”
“What is his form?”
“He has no form.”
“Is he your creator?”
“Yes.”

“Well, your Tengri does sound much like our Wiracocha. Perhaps they are the same. Once Wiracocha destroyed a town in anger. Who is to say he was not angry with us. But I can’t imagine why. What did we do to offend him?”

“It may be that he wanted you to be part of a stronger people and so ensure your survival.” “You are a strange-looking young man. You do not look like your fellows. Why are you so strange?”

“My people came from a land farther away than that of the Mongols. But they were accepted by them when they joined and, in fact, my grandfather was the Khan of Anahuac.”

 

“Where do the Mongols come from and where is this Anahuac you rule.”

“The Mongols come from a land far to the north and west across the Great Sea. Anahuac is also to the northwest but not nearly as far. I do not rule there, however, nor do I rule anywhere else. My grandfather had several sons, my father was the youngest, and he became a healer.”

“There is a prophecy known to only a few of us. The father of Pachacutec predicted that a people not seen before would destroy our civilization within five generations. But that was only about thirty years ago, not even two generations. Still, we have never seen your Mongols before.”

“We will not destroy your civilization. It is not our way. Your people can do whatever they want and worship any gods they choose so long as they remain loyal to the Khan and obey his orders.”
“You have given me much to think on young man. Perhaps I can still be of service to my people. I must now consult with my spirit guides. I hope they are as wise as yours.”

“I have learned to listen to and obey them. It was a hard lesson. I hope you get your answers.” “May you grow in wisdom as you grow in years.”
“Thank you, sir.”

With that, I continued down the mountain and returned to camp. It was nearly dark when I arrived and my brother was much relieved to see me, for he was beginning to worry that I had been injured or gotten lost. I assured him he need not worry about me, but I never mentioned my interview with the Inka high priest to him or anyone else. I never heard anything more of the man.

We favored a fairly leisurely pace on the march back, since there was no hurry. Each night we made camp in any available field. Since the harvests were being gathered in as we started out, we had to be rather careful, but eventually, the harvests were in and we could camp anywhere. In practice, however, a harvested field is much less comfortable than a fallow one and we assiduously sought out the latter. We actually encountered a light snow in parts of the mountains before we finally descended through the passes to the Yuma Valley. Once in the valley, the weather was briefly quite pleasant until we got about a fifth of the way down the valley when it began to get uncomfortably hot and humid. After the rather cold, dry highlands, this required a difficult adjustment. The natural result was that we were all soon in varying states of undress. We were in this condition as we arrived within a few li of Tamalameque late one afternoon. I suppose it never occurred to Theodore that we were less than presentable, but when, just as I expected, Khan George arrived to lead us all in triumph, he was appalled at our disarray. We hastily made camp and spent much of the evening polishing up all metal and oiling up all leather. The Khan graciously decided to “honor” us by spending the night with us.

I tried to make myself scarce, but Khan George wanted to meet his “heroic” cousin who survived the annihilation of the Maya tumen and then volunteered to continue serving the Khanate in another tumen. He had just about the same build as his son Henry, although he was somewhat stouter, and looked much older. I could see that he was studying me while he lavishly praised me. I also noticed that he had the coldest, deadest eyes I had ever seen. It was harder to believe I was related to this miscreant than his namesake in Anahuac. I protested that he was too generous in his praise and was greatly honored to have served and merely lucky to have survived. He then favored me with a smirk almost identical to that of his namesake in Anahuac. I couldn’t help thinking he would wear the same expression as he plunged a knife in my belly and then twisted it about. I found him chilling. I was grateful when he dismissed me.

When I left the tent, my brother was waiting for me. He quickly took me with him to visit an acquaintance of his in the area. He didn’t think George would move against me immediately, but he was sufficiently concerned to remove me from the area just in case. We rode hard toward the capital, and then turned off on a side trail for a short distance. We dismounted and walked around a large tree or bush—since it was quite dark with only a waxing moon to light the way, I couldn’t see anything well enough to distinguish it. Once we got behind the tree or bush, he got out a sort of broom and swept away our tracks from the trail. We then went down a barely perceptible trail to a small round hut made of wood with a thatch roof. Theodore made an odd birdlike noise that was answered from within by a similar one and we entered the house.

Once inside, there was a faint glow from the center hearth and in that vague light I could see there was a couple and their three children all of whom rose to enthusiastically greet their old friend. Once he introduced me, they all turned to me with equal enthusiasm. It reminded me of visits to my sister Sarah’s family. Theodore introduced me to them. Segunsua was a Muisca merchant, Pia, his wife, was a Taino and their three children, Chia, Kirikiri and Zuhe were ten, eight, and five respectively. He explained that they took turns naming the children, so the oldest and youngest had Muisca names, while the middle one had a Taino name. All I knew was the oldest was a girl and the other two were boys. I knew nothing of either language. Fortunately all spoke Mongol.

Much as I expected, Theodore had saved the life of one of them. It seemed that when Pia was due to deliver Chia she had great trouble. The midwives had decided there was no more they could do when Theodore happened to arrive on the scene. Normally, he would not have interfered with a birth, but one of the midwives had recognized him and asked him to help. Segunsua had misgivings, but he was so desperate that he consented. Theodore immediately figured out the problem and, with the midwives help, delivered the child and brought Pia through the ordeal. It was indelicate to ask what the problem was and no one saw fit to tell me, but apparently he instructed her on how to avoid it with future pregnancies and the other two gave her no trouble. Ever since, Theodore was welcome in their home and he always stopped by when he was in the area.

They put up hamacas for us and we chatted a bit more before going to sleep. The next morning we were fed and sent on our way with gifts. I was rather puzzled why a prosperous merchant would live in such an out-of-theway place that was really rather spare. Theodore explained to me that it was best not to attract attention in Tamalameque since George was not above arranging misfortune for anyone he judged to be too wealthy. Their hovel was hard to find and if somehow stumbled upon would attract no interest. He urged me to remember where it was and if I ever visited make sure no one followed me for their sake. He had been hoping that they would settle on one of the Taino islands where they would be safe from George, but Segunsua was not yet ready to give up this Khanate.

As we rode back to join the tumen, I couldn’t help wondering aloud to Theodore how such a good, kind man as our grandfather could possibly spawn such vile creatures as the two Georges. He reminded me that their fathers were also good, kind men.

“Power,” he explained, “can have a strange affect on a man. It can make him a monster if he lusts for it. It can make him a mediocrity if he is afraid of it. And it can make him great if he wields it with wisdom, sureness, and mercy. Our grandfather was the latter, so was my namesake, the first Khan of the Clouds. So, too, I think would have been Ignace, his older son. Henry, the late Khan of Anahuac was a good man, but he was not competent enough to rule. Neither are his namesake, our late commander, or Theodore, our dear cousin. At least Theodore is a good man just like his father. Henry is not particularly good or bad, just indifferent in every sense of the word.”

“I suppose, on the whole, our family did quite well until recently. After all, the great Kaidu spawned the execrable Kuyuk.”

“You mustn’t accept everything you read in our grandfather’s book as necessarily accurate. I think he wrote what he believed to be the truth, but he was very loyal to his friends. I often wished that Smoking Mirror had written his memoirs. I do believe he saw things much more clearly than did our illustrious ancestor.”

“Grandfather was often puzzled by him, wasn’t he?”

 

“Yes. I don’t think he fully appreciated how astute he really was. He would just assume his friend had missed something. I think Smoking Mirror would have made a better Khan than our grandfather.”

“Really?”
“Yes. And, all things considered, Citlalcoatl would be a much better Khan than either of our cousins.” “What about Batu?”

“The Khakhan was like the late Khan Henry in that he was trusting, like our cousin Henry in that he was of indifferent competence, and like his father Jelme in that he was ruthless.”

“Was?”
“He died about four years ago. Hadn’t you heard?”
“No.”
“So much for the authority of the Khakhan. His ‘subjects’ don’t even notice when he dies.” “Well, I suppose we are technically his subjects, but we really only answer to our Khan.”

“Don’t ever suggest that when you are wandering about the Khakhanate. You will find the new Khakhan, Kujujuk is quite jealous of his authority. I suspect that was why he arranged the marriage of his daughter with cousin George. He wants to be Khakhan in fact, not just in name. George had best tread lightly around him.”

“So he is another bad ruler! What about Hutulu?”

“Kujujuk is not a bad ruler. He is a very good and fair ruler, but he is very determined to maintain his rule and will ruthlessly crush any attempt to undermine him. Hutulu is quite ill from what I’ve heard and is not expected to live long. He was always considered a good, if uninspired, ruler. His son, Tegulun, is much like him. That is best for his sake. It is from him that Kujujuk would first look for disloyalty. He won’t find it, however. He really has nothing to worry about, but he’ll worry with his dying breath. It is his nature.”

“Whatever happened to the original plan, that the people would choose the successor to the Khan?”

“That bit of romantic idealism died with Kaidu. In theory it sounded good, but in practice, it would be impossible to carry out and lead to constant wars of succession. How do you think the immortal Kubilai became Khan? He had to kill off his brothers, or at least those he could reach. No, that would never work.”

“Well, maybe the next Khan will be a better one.”

 

“Not here. The only one worse than Henry is Ignace. As to Anahuac, I can’t imagine anything decent coming from George and Chabi.”

 

“Is she another monster?”

 

“Arrogant to the core, oblivious to everyone except herself, enjoys lavishing expensive adornments on herself, despises everyone in Anahuac, especially the Khan and all his relatives.”

“It sounds to me like the perfect match.”
“Shame on you, Karl. You should not wish so much evil on anyone—even if they richly deserve it.”

We were both laughing uncontrollably as we reached the tumen. All the men were putting the finishing touches on their accouterments for the great triumphal procession. Cousin Theodore was glad to see us. He wanted to make sure I had a place of honor in the parade. I quickly changed to my best uniform and put on a clean sash I had kept for just such occasions. We formed up and, with George at our head, we marched the short distance to Tamalameque. To my mild bemusement, the street was thronged with people cheering us and waving banners. The city had grown quite a bit larger during our campaign and it took a while for us to reach the palace. Still, all along the way people cheered us. When we reached the plaza in front of the palace, we formed ranks and Khan George addressed us. He briefly praised our heroism, dedication, loyalty, and so on and thanked us for our service to his Khanate. He then assured us we would always be welcomed should we ever decide to return in any capacity either for another campaign or to settle permanently. We were then dismissed and the men were issued their final pay and sent on their way. Theodore and Acapipioltzin personally thanked each of the officers and gave them each a bonus out of their own pockets. When Theodore got to me, I reminded him that I had only served with him for a short time and should not be paid by him. He brushed that off and asked if I would come back with him and Acapipioltzin. I explained that I wanted to visit my relatives in the Khakhanate, but hoped to see him again soon. My brother and I then took our leave of Theodore and Acapipioltzin. I changed into civilian clothes and we set off on the north road toward the coast. They went into the palace to visit a few days.

With typical caution, Theodore only followed the north road for a short while; then he turned east on a narrow road for a few hours; then he led us northeast on an even smaller trail. Toward evening he turned off on another hidden path and once again brushed away our tracks. We followed this path for some distance arriving at a tiny thatch hut in the twilight. It was deserted but was in good condition as though it had been recently used. We ate a cold meal and stretched out the hamacas for the night. When I asked about the place, Theodore explained it belonged to a friend of his who had invited him to stay whenever he was in the area. He seemed to have a lot of friends.

The next morning we continued on the small trail that had brought us to the house. It seemed to lead generally north and was becoming quite rough. We spent the next night in another small hut much like the first and so continued generally north for the next six days working our way along the western slopes of the Tairona Mountains and spending each night in a conveniently located hut along the way. I had to wonder about all this, but Theodore was not going to tell me anything more than he already had, so I didn’t pursue my curiosity. Finally we reached the Putun Maya settlement on the coast called Tuxla (after an Olmeca city). As usual, Theodore knew just what to do. We left our horses in the corral of the yam just south of the town and then worked our way through the underbrush around to the north side of the town and waited until dark, then approached and slipped over a wall into a garden behind a house just on the northern outskirts of town. Silently we approached the back door. At the door, Theodore knocked in a strange sequence. The door opened and we slipped in.

A small dark Putun Maya embraced us both. He led us into the courtyard in the center of his house and sat us down while his servant started to fix the evening meal. Theodore introduced me to the man, another merchant, incongruously named Juchi. I asked him how he happened to have a Mongol name.

“My name surprises you, young man?” He laughed. “My younger brother’s name is Raven. My father was an excellent sailor; he always knew which way the wind blew.”

As usual, he was indebted to Theodore for his life. I was beginning to think that Theodore had saved half the lives in the Khanate of the Clouds. Juchi was happy to help us. He would get us to one of the Koryo ships. He knew right where we should be able to intercept one just as it was leaving port. Since they were good businessmen, they would be happy to slow down long enough for a few extra fares to scramble aboard. We would set out at first light. We turned in early, right after our meal. Juchi’s servant awakened us in the dark. He took us to the central court and fed us a cold meal. Once we were finished eating, he led us down to the shore where Juchi was busy making the final adjustments to his cargo and boarding his rowers. He welcomed us aboard as though he hardly knew us and ushered us into the small hut in the center of his boat. Just as the sky was lightening, we shoved off and headed for the inlet that would take us from the lagoon to the open sea. Once through the inlet, we turned west and followed the coast. Two days later, just as Juchi had suggested, we were approaching one of the large Koryo ships just as it had left the main port near the mouth of the Yuma River, Yumabalikh (where I had landed some three years before). The vessel trimmed sail long enough for Theodore and me to scramble up the ropes onto the deck. We had left the Khanate of the Clouds.

18
The Quest, 95–6 K
(1463–4)

Once aboard the ship, we bade a seemingly curt farewell to Juchi and abruptly turned to present ourselves to the master of the ship. He was not far away and, in fact, had been watching us closely. His name was Ch’oe Yong. He was rather tall for a Koryo and appeared to be about middle-aged. He readily agreed to take us with him to the Khakhanate mainland, although he had to make several stops among the islands on the way. We settled on a fare and paid him. I had to assume Theodore had not saved his life. He confirmed my assumption adding that the Koryo had their own healers in whom they had complete faith. He had studied with them and had learned from them about treating the illnesses from the old country like the Zhen plague and barbarian pox and had taught them quite a bit about the local diseases. Still, he had only treated one Koryo in his entire career and the man had only agreed to it because he was delirious at the time. Once he came to his senses, he arranged to be delivered to one of his own healers. I asked if he had been offended by the move, but he insisted he was not.

“I never let my personal feelings interfere with healing. I am happy to help anyone who wants my help and not bother anyone who does not want my help. I consider it an honor to be able to help those who want my help and no dishonor if someone does not want my help. The only dishonor would be if someone wanted my help and I refused. So far, I have never done that.”

This ship was just like the one that brought me to the Khanate of the Clouds five years before. The Koryo seemed to only build one-size ship following one design. But since it was quite good, why not? We slept and ate in the large open area of the first deck, passengers on one side, and crew on the other. The hearth was strategically placed under a large opening to the upper deck and meals were fixed for passengers and crew at the same time. The Koryo were heavily into fish, vegetables, and rice all rather nicely spiced. We both enjoyed the meals very much. The other passengers were all merchants from various places. They were just like most merchants, a mixed lot. Some were very friendly, some were not, some were talkative, some were quiet, some bragged, some deprecated, some were nervous—constantly checking their goods below and the weather above, some were relaxed. Theodore didn’t seem to know any of them, although I thought one of them recognized him.

I was beginning to think that Theodore had a secret life of intrigue he wouldn’t share with me (no doubt for my protection). I noticed that the merchant who seemed to recognize him made it a point to follow him up onto the top deck one day when I stayed below (on purpose). I went up after a decent interval and found them both leaning on the deck rail seemingly looking out at the water. As I joined them the merchant nonchalantly wandered off. Not wishing to intrude, I asked Theodore if it looked like the weather would hold for our trip. He thought it would and added that we would arrive at Boriquen that evening. He never mentioned the merchant.

That evening, as promised, we dropped anchor off the western coast of Boriquen and small boats began to approach to drop off or pick up cargo and passengers. A few of the merchants left and a few new ones came aboard. By nightfall all was ready and we put to sea again. I suppose we passed Amona that night, but I didn’t even know it existed at that time. Odd how life seems to send one (well, me, anyway) in a series of everexpanding circles. But it would be many, many years before I returned to this area. The next morning, we were dropping anchor at a port on the southern coast of Aiti. And so it continued, we stopped at two more ports on Aiti’s south coast, two more on its west coast, and three on the north coast of Cuba before finally turning toward the mainland. At each stop we exchanged cargo and passengers. All of the latter were merchants. The one I thought knew Theodore debarked in Cuba. I admit to not paying much attention to the new ones that joined us. I had decided I had other things to think about. I was planning my quest for my mystery girl. I had decided to visit my Ani’ Yun’-wiya family and then my sister Mathilde and see if I could pick up her trail by asking all I met along the way. After that I would work my way across the Khakhanate.

At last the ship dropped anchor in the large bay where the Koryo had established themselves in their own largely shipbuilding town called Tonggye after the area of Koryo from which most of them originated. Theodore told me the bay was at the mouth of the Albayamule River, but had come to be called Tonggye Bay. The town was on the western shore of the bay, about halfway between the mouth of the river and the mouth of the bay. On the shore there were a few of the ships grounded for repairs. The copper on their undersides shone dully in the afternoon sun.

We were rowed ashore with some cargo. The ship apparently had a few more stops to make after this and was still taking on cargo and passengers. I noticed some soldiers among the passengers waiting to board. They noticed me also and saluted. I suppose one can always tell when a man has returned from battle. I returned their salute and wished them good hunting. I sincerely hoped they would return safely; they all had that innocent, eager look I remember from all the Ani’ Yun’-wiya who had lined up to go on campaign when I was a boy. I envied them that, for I was already jaded when I left for campaign, and the three years of campaigning only made it worse.

We made our way through the town and stopped at the yam just north of town. It was run by Hoopa Ullah, an old Pansfalaya, who greeted us warmly. Theodore had not helped him, but my father had, and he recognized us as his sons. In my case, I could understand that, but Theodore only shared stature with my father; otherwise, he looked like an Ani’ Yun’-wiya. In any case, we confirmed our identity, and Hoopa Ullah insisted we join him for dinner and stay in his house for the night. He was a wonderful host and his wife, Chiliad, also a Pansfalaya, was a wonderful cook. They were most proud of their son, Pushmataha, who had been named governor of a province in the Khanate of the Green Mist. They weren’t too certain what it was called or where exactly it was, but they hoped to visit him someday. It seems he had five children whom they were also eager to meet for the first time. It was odd that the man hadn’t been back in almost twenty years, but he wrote them regularly. I had to assume he was in one of the more pleasant areas, perhaps the far south. I had heard it was more temperate. Of course, the Pansfalaya were used to hot and humid weather anyway. After dinner we arranged to have two mounts ready for us in the morning.
The next morning, we rose early and after a hearty breakfast, Theodore gave me a big hug and wished me well on my quest. He asked me to give his best to our relatives and urged me to keep a low profile. I wished him well on his journey and told him to give my best to our father, should he run across him and make a fuss over Cuauhtzin when he sees him. He laughed at that idea (he really didn’t care for my feathery noisemaker) and set off westward. Before I left, I asked our hosts if they had ever seen my mystery girl. They had to admit they had not but wished me success in finding her. I mounted up and rode off to the north.

I stuck to the yam system and the merchant road that ran right through the lands of the southeastern tribes toward the Ani’ Yun’-wiya towns. At each yam I asked the owner if he had seen my mystery girl. The answer was always no, until I got to the yam just outside the town of Coosa. A native of Coosa named Coacoochee ran the yam. He was perhaps fifty and a veteran of several campaigns in the Khanate of the Green Mist. All he would say about his campaigns was that he had fought various peoples along the coast. He had been content to remain a soldier refusing promotions on several occasions.

“I wanted to only worry about myself, not wet-nurse a bunch of raw recruits. Every promotion included training and leading newly trained boys into battle. That was suicide. I was content to fight and fight well. What about you?”

“I must admit to being promoted. But I went on campaign as an arban commander, so I had no choice.” “What did a young boy like you do to be made an officer before his first campaign?”
“I was given more credit than I deserved for helping thwart the Tenocha coup attempt in Anahuac.”

“Oh that. I heard of that. You know, I’ve met only a few Tenocha. All of them were merchants. They seemed to have uncommon good sense. It’s hard to believe a sensible people would have tried something like that.” “Tenocha merchants are nothing like Tenocha elites. The latter have more arrogance than is decent considering their position. The merchants, on the other hand, have traveled the world and have had their eyes opened.”

“Well, arrogant elites are no rare item in these parts. Those that remain are as arrogant as ever. Fortunately, my family is of more humble origin. So, are you wandering about the country the way most of us veterans of campaigning do?”

“I am. But I’m also looking for a girl a little younger than I am, who is as pale as I am. She was traveling with an older merchant who was from one of the northeast tribes. Have you seen her?”

“I did see her. It was a few years ago. Time was when most merchants came to Coosa, but now most pass us by. But I remember the girl and the merchant. He was her grandfather. I am a curious man, not afraid to ask questions. When I saw them I asked her if she was related to the great healer John of Cuauhnahuac. She looked at me strangely, then turned to the older man. He told me that she was related only to him, and was, in fact, his granddaughter. I remarked that her pale complexion made me ask, and that I did not mean to upset her. He replied that it was no matter; they would both be honored to be related to John, but were not. He would not elaborate, but as I said, I am curious, so I persisted asking if one of her parents was from a strange pale tribe. He looked at me peevishly and answered that no, both of her parents were members of his tribe. I could tell that I was not getting the whole story, but it was also clear that was all he was going to tell me. I have heard that there have been pale strangers that fished off the shores of the area of the northeast bands. Who knows, perhaps a couple of them got lost and joined his band. In any case, I think he is too old to be her grandfather, he is probably her great-grandfather.”

“Do you remember where they were going?”

 

“It didn’t seem prudent to ask, but I noticed that they took the road to the northeast. They arrived from the south like you did.”

 

“You are very observant. You must have been a scout. Do you happen to remember their names?”

“No, I’m afraid not. I’m sure he told me, but you know how difficult those Northeastern Bands’ names are. The girl had a very strange name also, Shrott or something like that. By the way, I was not a scout. I was observant enough to notice their attrition rate.”
I thanked him for his help and agreed with him about the scouts. I had also heard about the pale fishermen off the northeast coast. My grandfather had mentioned them in his book, and my uncle Pierre had been assigned to contact them. From what I had heard, he had been unsuccessful and had returned home after a few years. I understood that they had been staying well offshore, only visiting uninhabited islands to dry or smoke their catch. As the Koryo ships began plying the waters of the east coast, they had been even less in evidence. I now wondered if perhaps my mystery girl was descended from a shipwreck survivor.

The next morning, I continued on my way northeast. I stopped at all the yams, but none of the keepers had seen her. In most cases they had only been running the yams for a year or two, but as I got closer to Ani’ Yun’-wiya land, the yam keepers were Ani’ Yun’-wiya and had been there for some time. None of them had seen her or heard of her. It wasn’t surprising that they hadn’t heard of her; no one would remark a merchant traveling with part of his family no matter how strange the family looked. But it seemed that the man did not visit the Ani’ Yun’-wiya. I thought that was rather odd, since they were a wealthy tribe with plenty of goods to trade. Indeed, I remembered seeing merchants in Itsati every few days. I couldn’t imagine there was any bad blood between any of the northeast bands and the Ani’ Yun’-wiya.

I arrived in Itsati in early winter. Iskagua and Ghigooie made a big fuss over how much I had filled out and what a great warrior I had become. Gatagewi also greeted me warmly as did the other boys with whom I had grown up who were in town. Cimnashote was still on campaign, but was expected back in the spring. Four of the boys I had known had died on campaign. The ones who had already returned were mostly scattered about wandering, but a few had returned. Not surprisingly, they had no wish to discuss their experiences. I could understand, since I shared their feelings. With embarrassment, I recalled my badgering of the returned veterans with questions. Now they all gave me knowing looks. They welcomed me into their sweat lodges and we spoke of many things, but not of war.

Once I had made all the rounds and paid my respects to all the elders, I asked Iskagua and Ghigooie about my mystery girl and her grandfather. No such pair had ever come through Itsati and they knew of no merchant who avoided the Ani’ Yun’-wiya. They speculated that the man probably just avoided mountains and so passed up on visiting here. They also had to admit that they didn’t know much about merchants or the routes they plied and suggested that I ask any merchants I encounter about the pair. That seemed like a good idea and I began asking the merchants who came to Itsati about them. Of course, not many merchants came into the mountains in the winter, so it was some time before I got a positive response. The merchant was an old Leni lenape named Arneekwes. At first he was hesitant to admit knowing them, but agreed after I assured him I meant them no harm.

“Yes, I know them well. The merchant’s name is Hiacoomes. He is from the band called Wampanoag. He is from a village called Nashanekammuck on the island of Capawake. The girl is his great-granddaughter and her name is Carlotta.”

“Capawake?”

 

“It is the western one of the two islands off the southern coast of the Wampanoag lands. Are you familiar with that area?”

 

“No, but I have studied maps. Is that the coast just south of where the long narrow peninsula juts northward?” “Yes, that’s it, the peninsula is called the Nauset Peninsula after the band living there. They are also Wampanoag.”

“The girl has an unusual name.”
“Yes, she does. I would guess it is not Wampanoag.”
“Were her parents not of the tribe?”

“No, they were also Wampanoag. What you are probably getting at is that her grandparents were not all Wampanoag. Her two grandfathers were the only survivors of a shipwreck somewhere near Capawake. Hiacoomes was a younger man and still fished and gathered shellfish to support his family. He pulled the two half-dead strangers onto his boat and took them back to his village. His wife nursed them back to health. Communication with them was very difficult, but they gradually became part of the band and fished with Hiacoomes. For a while, they constantly looked for ships of their people so they could return, but eventually, they gave up and married into the band. One married Pingtis, the daughter of Hiacoomes, the other a girl named Makunchis. In the fullness of time Pingtis had a son and Makunchis a daughter. One of the strangers disappeared one day. He had gone to the mainland to hunt, but no one ever knew what happened to him. The other went alone fishing one day and never returned. Pingtis pined away for her husband and soon died leaving Hiacoomes to raise her child. Makunchis was a stronger woman and raised her daughter with the help of her family. Eventually, the two children grew up and married. Carlotta was their youngest child. They and their other children died during one of the Zhen plague outbreaks, but Carlotta survived. Hiacoomes took her in and when he became a merchant after his wife died, he took her with him.”

“So all her other relatives are dead?”

“No, she still has some relatives on her mother’s side. Her mother’s name was Wingenund, as I remember, and she had some relatives on the mainland who still live. Makunchis died some time ago, but I don’t recall the particulars.”

“So you don’t know where the strangers were from?”

 

“I never met them. Hiacoomes probably told me their names, but I don’t recall them. I met him soon after he became a merchant and we have been friends ever since. He is a fine, fair, honest man.”

 

“I very much want to meet him and Carlotta. Do you have any idea where he might be?”

“Well, it is winter, so he will likely be in the south or on his way west. He generally moves south along the coast to the land of the Timacua, then west as far as the Kadohadacho, then north to the city of Murenbalikh, then east along the southern shore of the lakes then down the Mahican River to the Leni lenape River and along the coast to his people. He tries to avoid the north in the winter since it is hard on his old bones. I can understand that; I also plan to head south when I am done here.”

“I must visit my sister in the Panther Ordu. Might they have gone that far north last summer?” “I doubt it. Of course, he is a merchant—we travel where trade leads us. Go visit your sister, then follow the merchant road along the coast and you will likely catch up to them before they turn north.” “Would you know if Carlotta was married?”

“So that is your interest. From one glance a dozen years ago? What a romantic! She was not married when last I saw them, in early spring. I doubt that she will marry as long as Hiacoomes lives, however. She is devoted to him and he to her.”

“Nevertheless, I must see her again.”
“Good luck, young man. May your dream come true.”

I thanked him for all his help and ran to prepare for my departure. I wanted to run after them right away, but it would be unthinkable to not visit my sister and Aspenquid. I explained the situation to Ghigooie and Iskagua. They congratulated me for finding out so much about my mystery girl already and quickly set to helping me get ready for my trip north. The next morning I set out with three horses, two to ride and one carrying my pack and gifts for my sister and her family from me and my Ani’ Yun’-wiya family. With the two horses, I was able to make good time. I went directly east along the road through the mountain valleys. There was quite a bit of snow along this route, but it would get me to the coast, and I could stay in comfortable yams along the way. Once out of the mountains, I turned northeast cutting through the Iyehyeh lands to the lands of the Great Bay Tribes. There was still snow, but it was not as deep, and as I neared the Bay there were even some patches of bare ground. I crossed the frozen Potomac River above the falls and turned a little north of east through the rolling hills until I reached the mouth of the Kubilai River. I followed the Kubilai north to the new camp of the Panther Ordu. There was a deep cover of snow on the ground when I reached the Ordu.
I found Mathilde and her family with little difficulty. She also made a big fuss over what a big man I had become. My nephew, Aju, and niece, Paula, had grown from babies to children of twelve and ten years respectively. They had been joined by a brother, Bedagi (seven years old) and a four-year-old sister, Sarah. Mathilde introduced me to the two latter, explaining that Bedagi was named after Aspenquid’s father, who had died about a year before the boy was born and Sarah was named after our sister because the baby smiled and giggled all the time just like our sister did. The older children did not remember me at all, but all made me very welcome. In fact, Aju became my shadow for all intents. Aspenquid was away on campaign in the Khanate of the Green Mist. He could no longer put it off and had left the past spring. He had written that he had arrived safely and was enduring the orientation training much like I had done when I reached the Khanate of the Clouds. He was a jagun commander now and was too busy to write often.

I could see something was troubling my sister, but it took some difficulty to get her to unburden herself to me. I forced the issue by refusing to tell her anything about myself until she told me what was the matter. She finally admitted that although Aspenquid had left her with ample provisions until the spring, when his brother would get her enough for another year, she had found it necessary to share with a friend of hers whose husband had been killed while hunting, and she didn’t know how she could replenish the larder. I assured her I would take care of the problem. I decided not to tell her about Carlotta or she would insist that I go find her. I could hardly leave her this way. Much as I disliked hunting, I would have to do some.

The next morning, I set out with Aju to do some hunting. The men of the Ordu suggested I go north into the mountains since the Leni lenape had depleted the Kubilai Valley forests of game. Fortunately, it was not snowing, although it was quite cold and the snow cover already on the ground had not melted, but instead had become crunchy underfoot. Once we reached the mountains, I could see it had snowed more there, but it was still not too deep for the horses. Soon enough we found deer tracks and followed them for the rest of the day. We made camp in a shelter made by tying saplings down and covering them with hides. The next morning we continued after the deer finally coming across a good-sized herd of them about midmorning. The deep snow slowed them down enough so that Aju managed to get one and I got two before they scattered out of bowshot. We cleaned them, buried the entrails, tied the carcasses high up in a tree and set off after the herd again. I figured if we could get two or three more we would have as much as we could carry out on the horses.

The deer led us in a wide circle right back to where we had gotten the first three, but it took a whole day. We got our three more and cleaned them as before. I took a look around and found that there was a salt lick in the spot. I would have to remember the place in case I ever had to hunt around here again. We loaded up the horses and returned to the Ordu. I offered to help cut up and smoke the meat but was shooed away by Mathilde and her friend, a Wazhazhe named Mitsege, and the latter’s mother. By asking a few questions, I discovered that Mitsege’s family consisted of herself, her parents, her eight children (the oldest of whom was twelve), and her sister’s orphaned four children (all younger than seven). It was clear I had to do a lot more hunting.

Mitsege’s oldest son (Ingrokah) was only nine, but that was old enough to hunt, so I gathered him up and secured a few more horses and an unmarried Ani’ Yun’-wiya member of the Ordu auspiciously named Galagina (buck deer) and set out to do more hunting. We returned to the salt lick and secured twelve more deer. I felt that was all that herd could afford. On the way back, we were attacked in our night camp by a bear that should have been hibernating. It was just one of the smaller eastern bears, but he was big enough to require a sled to haul him out. We dropped off the meat and set out again this time to the northwest. During this trip, our luck with the weather ran out and we were caught in a heavy snowstorm. We were able to get more deer and even two of the large deer called moos by the northeast bands. What I really wanted to get were some of the plains oxen. I knew they could be found in the eastern forests also, but were becoming more rare. We had to settle for some of the smaller animals like rabbits, the little bear called kvtli by the Ani’ Yun’-wiya and mapachin in Nahual, and the large ratlike creature called siquutsets by the Ani’ Yun’-wiya.

It was obvious that we would not get sufficient food for winter this way. It finally occurred to me that the easiest way to get food this time of year was around the Great Bay, just to the south. It was full of large fish and waterfowl. As soon as we got back, I dropped off the meat and borrowed a cart and a boat, recruited Mitsege’s mother (Ni Otatse) and with Galagina and the boys in tow set off down the Kubilai River to the Great Bay. We were on the eastern side of the river and I thought it best that we remain on that side since I thought that the hunting would be better on the eastern shore of the Great Bay. We reached a promising spot (with very little snow cover) several li south of the mouth of the river. I sent Galagina and Aju off to hunt birds while I set off with Ingrokah to fish and Ni Otatse set up camp.

At the end of the day, we returned with about twenty of the large basslike fish. Ni Otatse had the smoking racks already built and we set to work preparing the fish. Soon Galagina and Aju returned with a number of geese and a few ducks. When the game was all on the racks, Ni Otatse surprised us with a meal of crabs, which she had caught while she was waiting for us. We remained there another day, then moved farther south to another promising spot for a couple of days and so on until we had a cart full of smoked meat and fish which we all agreed was enough for the rest of the winter and perhaps much of the spring as well. We then turned back north.

The weather began to deteriorate as soon as we reached the mouth of the Kubilai River. There was almost half a foot of snow on the ground and more was falling. We took refuge in a Leni lenape town until the storm ended. We continued on our way slowly through the ever-deeper snow, making very little progress each day. Fortunately, there were quite a few Leni lenape towns along the way, and we could stay inside a house almost every other day. We finally reached the Panther Ordu after almost ten days. Mathilde had been worried about us, but suspected the weather had held us up. We put up all the food, and confident that she was well provided for, I was determined to continue my quest. Once I told her why I needed to set out, she immediately agreed and gave me some silk cloth as a gift for Carlotta.

After resting a day, I bid everyone farewell and set off south again. I was about halfway down the Kubilai when another storm broke. I was forced to take shelter in a copse of evergreen trees since I was nowhere near a yam or town. The blizzard raged for two days. I had managed to pack up the snow as a windbreak for the horses and me during the storm. With some difficulty, I managed to dig down to some grass for the horses, but it was hardly enough. Once the storm ended, it took me quite a while to force our way through the drifted snow and onto the trail. The wind had kept the snow fairly shallow along the riverbank where the trail was. It was midmorning by the time I worked my way onto the trail. Around noon, I thought I heard a horse whicker from a copse of trees well buried in snow about a hundred feet off the trail. I felt I should investigate in case someone was injured.

I fought my way through the snow to the copse and again heard the horse. I called out, but there was no answer. Finally, I reached the horse. He appeared to be alone and was obviously hungry. I dug down to the grass in front of him and he started cropping the sparse grass. I looked around for a rider but couldn’t find one. Yet the horse was tied, so there had to be one somewhere. I kept fishing around in the snow with the butt end of my spear and finally I felt something. Digging furiously, I found a man. He was still alive, but only barely. I knew I was still some distance from the next yam and this man would have to get warmed up quickly or he would die. With much difficulty, I got a fire going, set the man next to the fire, and prepared a soup for him. He came around and was able to take in the soup. We spent the night there although I had a hard time keeping the fire going since most of the wood I could find was green.

The next morning, I gave him some more soup and bundled him up. We reached the yam at midday. The yam keeper, a Leni lenape named Pemhake, helped me carry the man into his house. We laid him next to the fire and he warmed up another soup for him. He became feverish, and then seemed to have chills that no fire could relieve. This continued for a few more days. I began to think we would loose him, but he continued to hold on. Finally, he began to recover. He turned out to be little more than a boy, only seventeen years old. His name was Behechio and he was the son of a cacique on Boriquen. He pledged eternal gratitude to both Pemhake and me. I don’t know if he ever repaid Pemhake, but he certainly repaid me.

It turned out that he was on his way to the Panther Ordu when the storm hit. He had never seen snow before and had been unprepared for the cold winters in the north. He was not feeling well when he reached the Kubilai, but had stubbornly insisted on continuing north. He had been trying to make good time and had bypassed Pemhake’s yam near midday thinking he could make the next Leni lenape town before nightfall. Then the storm broke. He correctly assumed he needed to find shelter when he found he could no longer continue and took refuge in the copse of trees much as I had. He tied his horse and had a cold meal. He remembered wondering if the storm would ever end. The next thing he remembered was me trying to feed him soup. I stayed with him another day to make sure he had recovered completely. Before continuing on my way, I urged him to wait until a group came along before going on to the Ordu and suggested he look up my sister when he got there. After his close call, he agreed, added that he had much to learn about here in the north, but that he would do his best.

I managed to get the rest of the way down the Kubilai Valley without further incident, although the snow was fairly deep in places that were sheltered from the wind. The river was frozen over north of the mouth, and I gingerly crossed it about a day’s ride from the mouth. It is a fairly wide river but not particularly deep, so a plunge into it would be more uncomfortable than deadly. I continued along the merchant road crossing the Potomac a little south of the place I had crossed it earlier, although the snow on the ground was still deep and the river was still frozen. There was a bridge being built across it that made use of a small island near the far shore. That would be convenient when completed. The water was tidal below the falls, but it still froze over in the winter. Most of the yams were run by retired warriors from the Great Bay Tribes. I found them to be very cordial. Most of the rivers in this area are rather shallow and can be easily forded, the few exceptions had permanent bridges under construction, so progress would soon be unimpeded.

The snow cover gave way just before I crossed the Secotan River near the Great Sound. I started making a little better time, although the occasional cold rain was not pleasant. I reached the lands of the Timacua in early spring. The merchant road splits in the lands of the Saturiwa, one fork heading south into the Timacua Peninsula and the other turning west. I turned west. I had not gone too many days when I came upon a merchant with a broken wheel. He had foolishly failed to carry a replacement and was stranded. I rode back to the yam I had left earlier that day, secured another wheel and returned to the merchant. He was an older man and was of little help replacing the wheel. I suggested he find a younger relative to travel with him. He asked me if I couldn’t accompany him to the main town of the A’palachi. It wasn’t far, and he was so helpless, I decided I had no choice but to agree. It took almost four days to get the overloaded cart the relatively short distance to the town.

The old man tried to pay me for my help, but I refused, telling him to repay me by getting someone to go with him from now on. He said he would try. I left him and continued west. The road bypassed Tonggye, crossing the Albayamule above the mouth and continuing due west through the lands of the Pansfalaya. I remembered my grandfather mentioning a holy place of the Pansfalaya called Nanih Waiya. It was the place where he had conferred with them when they had agreed to join the Khanate. I remember him mentioning spending the night there in hopes of dreaming a dream. I decided it would be a good place to contact my spirit guide and asked for directions at the next yam.

19
Carlotta, 96 K
(MS, TN, KY. IL, MO, 1464)

Nanih Waiya was rather north of my position. To get there, I had to turn off the main southern trade route and take a road that ran a little east of north through the eastern part of the Pansfalaya lands. It was a very attractive land. Deep woods were periodically interrupted by very large villages and their attendant fields. The villages were still very much as Grandfather described them, very spread out, but with a central area where the Mico lived. There was always a yam in the central area as well. Once they joined the Khanate, the Micos saw to it that yams were set up in each village so any visitors would be conveniently placed to visit them or do business in the village. All the yams were run by Pansfalaya, usually somehow related to the Mico. It was a very convenient arrangement.

Still, I found them all very well run, clean, and spacious with excellent food and good horses available. Once the keeper heard I was headed for Nanih Waiya, I was invariably treated with great respect, deference even. They were very impressed that a stranger had not only heard of their sacred shrine, but was going out of his way to visit it. The yam in the village closest to Nanih Waiya was run by Konshak Lusa, an ancient, small, thin, and very dark man, one of the very few Pansfalaya who still sported the deformed heads. He did little work himself, beyond greeting and welcoming all visitors. He greeted me warmly and asked if I was related to the great Raven. I confirmed that I was his grandson. He marveled that he had such a young grandson. I admitted that I was the youngest child of his youngest child.
“I saw your grandfather in this very place once,” he said. “He was no longer a young man. He did not see me. He was talking to my grandfather, Kiliahote.”

“I remember him writing about Kiliahote. He was the seer who advised the Pansfalaya to join the Khanate. He mentioned seeing him again when he was trying to stop the barbarian pox. He wrote that Kiliahote had warned him about the coming Zhen plague and then had disappeared while he went to get water.”

“He would never tarry about after giving a message. He always felt that it would be taken more to heart if he left no opportunity for discussion. He died not long after that. My father died from the Zhen plague when it came upon us.”

“It killed many of my relatives also.”
“Indeed, few families were unscathed. Do you come here like your grandfather, to dream dreams?”

“Yes, in a way. I wanted to consult my spirit guide and since I tend to find him on mountains, I felt that this was not only the closest ‘mountain,’ but as a holy place, would be even more appropriate.”

“It is our holy place; it may not speak to you. Your spirit guide may not be compatible with our spirits.” “Well, I am willing to find out.”

“In any case, you will come to no harm. If your guide cannot speak to you, perhaps ours will. The mound covers the bones of our people, you know.”

 

“My grandfather wrote that it was the place from which your people believed they had come out of the earth.”

“No. Some of us tell that story. We were a wandering people in ancient times until our gods led us to this place. We carried with us the bones of our ancestors. Our gods instructed us to place our ancestors’ bones here. We then covered them with bark and buried them under mounds of earth. For several years we continued to mound up the earth over the bones until the hill was deemed to be high enough. Then trees were planted on the mound and in time it came to be as you see it.”

“No wonder it is a holy place!”

 

“There will be a new moon tonight. It should be a good night to dream. May you find your answers, young man.”

As he suggested, I decided to try my luck that night. I skipped dinner that evening and after sunset climbed up the hill and sat down under a tree near the top. It was early spring so the insects were not too much of a problem. There was a brief shower near midnight, but the night was mild and I was not uncomfortable. I did manage, eventually, to contact my spirit guide. Finally, I fell asleep leaning against the tree. I had a strange dream that night. I appeared to be on top of a mountain, and then I jumped off the mountain and started to fly. I flew through the air parallel to the ground with my arms at my sides, not flapping like a bird. I could feel the wind rushing against my face and I could see the land flashing by below me. I flew over forests, rivers, villages, and fields. I stopped over what looked like a huge city with a very high terraced mound and many lower ones, most topped with houses with thatched roofs. On the left was a ring of large logs set upright in the ground. Beyond the city was a large river and to the left of the city was a mighty river. There was a long bridge over that mighty river. On the bridge I could see a lone wagon crossing over toward the city. I swooped down to the wagon and could see an old man was driving the wagon. Next to him was a young woman almost as pale as me. Suddenly I was whipped away and sped through the air. After a time, I saw snow below me and strange people, who looked a little like the Dinne, living in rude huts. One of them stopped and looked up at me. He reached out to me as I sped by. Then I turned sharply to the left and flew over frozen plains followed by high mountains and eventually coming to the ocean. Here I began to descend and landed on a beach in front of a very strange village with wooden plank houses and large wooden poles carved into fantastic animal heads, one on top of the other. The one in front of me had on top the head of a bird with a large beak. As I drew near, it said to me, “Welcome to your home, my son.” Then I awakened with a start. I had to run over the dream a few times in my mind to make sure I remembered it, and then I tried to figure it out.
I decided the city must be Murenbalikh and it was there that I would finally catch up with Hiacoomes and Carlotta. I could not imagine why I would travel north then west to the ocean once I found them, but that was what seemed to be happening. The bird was probably a raven from the shape of the beak, but I could not imagine how that village could ever be my home. The poles with animal heads did seem to be something I had heard of, but I couldn’t place it. I decided it would be best to keep this dream to myself for the present.

“Did you dream dreams?” Konshak Lusa greeted me as I returned to the yam.
“I did. Nanih Waiya is indeed a holy place.”
“Your dream troubles you?”
“No, it more puzzles than troubles.”
“Well, a life with puzzles is an interesting one.”
“Yes, I suppose so. I must travel to Murenbalikh. Does the road to the north lead there?”

“Ultimately. It is probably the most direct route from here, unless one was to go up the Missi Sipi River. Is that where your dreams take you?”

“It seems to be.”
“Have something to eat before you go.”
“Of course.”

I ate a good breakfast and took along some dried meat so I wouldn’t need to stop until dark. I was on my way within a short time and riding quickly north. This was not a much-used road. While there were occasional villages and towns there were no extra yams outside of the towns. I had to spend my first night in the woods since I had stubbornly refused to stop at the last village in the midafternoon. I still had some dried meat, so I didn’t have to hunt, and it was mild enough that I didn’t have to build a fire, so I bedded down in a thicket for the night. The next morning, I rose early and mounted up right away. I had no more food and very little water so I thought it best to get right to the next yam. I reached a village near midmorning and went straight to the yam for a meal and a change of horses. Within a short time, I was on my way again. This time I brought along enough food and water for a few days and did not have to stop again in Pansfalaya territory. I seemed to be traveling in an almost empty quarter for a few days before I finally came upon a town belonging to the people called Tsoyaha.

It was late afternoon when I reached the town and I was out of food, so I decided to search out the yam. It proved to be on the east end of town not far from the bank of the West Tsoyaha River. I could see that the road I was on joined a much larger road that seemed to follow the river along its west bank. I went into the yam. It was run by an old Wazhazhe couple named Michushingaw and Gthe Do’nwi’n. They greeted me warmly and showed me to the guest rooms. Over dinner we chatted about the usual banalities for a while; then I asked them how they happened to be running a yam in Tsoyaha territory. They laughed and asked me if I had ever come across a Tsoyaha yam keeper. I had to admit I hadn’t.

“It would seem, young man,” Michushingaw said, “that some tribes have certain preferences. Our Wazhazhe, for example, are rarely found to be merchants. The Ani’ Yun’-wiya are also rarely merchants. The Tsoyaha are often merchants, but almost never yam keepers.”

“You know, I didn’t realize it, but you are right. I lived many years with the Ani’ Yun’-wiya and never knew any to be merchants.”

 

“Precisely. Now the Leni lenape have many merchants but few yam keepers. I couldn’t begin to explain why that is. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence or perhaps it points to peculiar tribal traits. Who knows?”

“An interesting thought. Are all the yams in this area run by Wazhazhe?”
“No, not all, but I would say the majority.”
“What about the infamous Hotcangara?”
“Oh, they’re not so infamous anymore. I would say they are more Mongol than the Mongols.” “Really? I thought they resisted the Khanate.”

“That was a long time ago. Oh, you’ll occasionally come upon a bitter old-timer, but most of them have died off. Besides, there is talk that the Khakhan will move the capital to Murenbalikh.”

 

“Why would he do that?”

“It is only talk. I suspect it is just some wishful thinking on the part of the Hotcangara. I have been to Khanbalikh—it is magnificent! Of course, it is not permanent. As a city of yurts and tents it could be struck and moved in a day. But Murenbalikh is overcrowded already, and there is sickness there. I doubt the Khan would want to move to such a place.”

“What sort of sickness is there?”
“It is an old disease that is only found in crowded places. There is much coughing and a wasting of the body.” “It sounds like what my father calls la’o.”
“Your father is John of Anahuac?”
“Yes.”
“It is an honor to serve you then. I’m a fool for not recognizing you.”
“We don’t look that much alike, actually.”
“In the Khakhanate, no two people could look more alike. You are the only pale ones I have ever seen.” “No, there is another. She is a girl, the great-granddaughter of a merchant, with whom she travels.” “Really? They have not come here then. Is the merchant also pale?”
“No, he is from one of the northeast bands.”
“Oh, of course. I have heard of the pale fishermen on the large boats. So a few came ashore, eh?” “Well, two of them anyway. They were her grandfathers.”
“So you have met her then?”
“No, not yet. I will meet them in Murenbalikh.”
“Try to stay out of the city, if you can. It is not healthy.”
“I will remember that. Thank you for the advice.”
“An honor to serve any relative of John of Anahuac.”

I did not ask about his encounter with my father, but his words did make me think that perhaps I had best hurry on my way so I could keep Hiacoomes and Carlotta from getting la’o. As I recalled, it was incurable and always fatal after a few years. The next morning, I ate quickly, secured some extra provisions, bid my hosts farewell, and set off. The road followed the river generally, but it did not bend nearly as much. There were no towns on the road, but smaller roads and paths led off to them all along the way. Once in a while, there would be a yam right on the road and I would stop for more provisions and to change horses as necessary. Often the road would be bounded on both sides by fields that were full of locals planting or clearing to plant. Once in a while, the road cut through a wooded area and there was also an occasional swamp, which the road turned sharply to avoid. The road was also rather busy. I would often pass lone riders, groups or families on foot or in wagons, merchants, or troops of soldiers. The latter always saluted me. I would return the salute, of course, but I had to wonder how long the “glow” of battle would cling to me.

In due course, I came to the Wazhazhe River. The road turned west for about a day’s ride before coming to the lower bridge. There were a few bridges across the Wazhazhe. The oldest used the island above the falls, another was just east of the juncture with the East Tsoyaha River, and another was farther upstream from the one at the falls. This was the longest one. It was a pontoon bridge. It also made use of an island and was unfortunately still being rebuilt when I arrived. The spring floods had subsided and it was deemed safe to set it in place again. They would be finished by the next day. Even though the floods had subsided the current was quite swift and it was not easy to lay down the bridge. I decided I had best wait, since any attempt to cross would be very difficult. I found the yam at the bridgehead quite crowded, but I was able to get a hot meal and some supplies. I noticed some coughing among the guests, so I took my meal and camped out in the open. The next morning, I discovered that a light rain had soaked me completely, but I remounted and rode down to the bridgehead.

The bridge was in place by midmorning, and I was one of the first across. Here I had to decide whether to take my chances on the direct route to Murenbalikh, or to take the longer merchant trail.

This was no small decision since the direct route was often under water during most of the spring. I decided to chance it since it was late spring and the worst of it should be over. I had heard that it could get waist deep sometimes. The first day the road was dry, the second day it was muddy, and the third day it was under water about a foot deep. Toward nightfall, I was able to find a small knoll on which to camp, but the mosquitoes were out in force, and while the bear grease discouraged most of them, the constant humming kept waking me up. Fortunately, the trail on the fourth day started out wet and ended dry. The fifth day was also dry. I occasionally encountered a lone rider who would ask me about the road ahead and nod grimly when I told him what to expect.

Not long after setting out on the sixth day, I came upon Murenbalikh. The road entered the city from the southeast. The land was quite flat here, and once the road left the woods and entered the cleared fields south of the city, I could see the many mounds in the distance and the largest one looming over all the others. I could tell I was still some distance from the mound and the houses in this area were few and scattered. There was some activity on the road, most of it heading toward town and most of it consisting of individual men.

I could soon see what old Michushingaw meant when he said the Hotcangara had become more Mongol than the Mongols. From the dress and total lack of tattoos or feathers they looked like a throwback to the old Mongols who first came over from the old land. I also began to notice yurts among the more typical Hotcangara houses and herds of goats and sheep being led to pasture. I found it all rather bizarre. It was really too humid here to live in a yurt; the local houses were much more practical. The sheep and goats were more suited to grasslands like the prairie. Here there were woods and fields. Of course, the herds were small, but I was sure they used up valuable fields that could be planted with centli. The Mongol dress, raw-silk shirt, leather pants, and long, leather boots was comfortable enough in cooler, drier climates, but again, this was not a cool, dry climate. I tended to wear cotton. Of course, it was none of my business.

By midday my road had entered a city with many houses on small plots of land. Again, there were quite a few yurts. The activity on the street had picked up and people were moving along in wagons, carts, on horseback, and on foot in both directions. I began to see more appropriately dressed individuals here, but most of the young men were dressed like Mongols. Eventually, I began to approach the stockade that surrounds the city center. It had been destroyed when the city was taken long ago, but apparently had been rebuilt. Most of the young men were streaming into the center through the several openings in the stockade. Curious, I tied up my horse and also went in. Near the center, there was a large open area in which there were two very tall poles. It seemed there was a contest in progress where the young men were trying to see who could get his spear the highest in the pole. The spectators were prudently standing behind the contestants.

While that could be seen as something of an athletic feat, I was unable to think of a practical use for such a skill in battle. We always used arrows against enemies high above us. I looked around the center a bit. The large, terraced mound was at the northern end. It appeared to have four levels and a house on each level—all yurts. The largest one was on the highest level, where I suspected the governor of the city lived. Around the periphery of the stockade, there were several smaller mounds, most with yurts, but a few were conical with no room for houses. Around the mounds on the periphery were many more yurts on the ground level. I thought these last must be truly uncomfortable, with no hope of a breeze because of the stockade. I couldn’t help noticing quite a bit of coughing coming from the yurts and among the spectators. I decided I had better leave. I regained my horse and turned west, then north around the stockade, then west again, down a broad street. Occasionally, I would come across a mound with a yurt on top of it, or a yurt enclosed with a small stockade, but most of the houses were close together and only about half of them were yurts. Not far from the stockade, I came upon the circle of standing logs I had seen in my dream. In its center was a taller log. It had apparently been connected to some sort of religious ritual that had been abandoned and was now maintained as a curiosity. As I continued west, the houses began to thin out again toward evening and I was among fields again. Just at twilight, I reached the bridge. It, too, was a pontoon bridge, a practical necessity because of the varying depths of the river during the year. It was quite broad for a pontoon bridge, and two wagons could easily pass each other crossing it. I started across it just as it got dark, since it was night when I encountered Hiacoomes and Carlotta in my dream.

There were lamps that were lit at night so that one could cross the bridge without blundering into the water. Even so, there was very little traffic crossing at night. I peered intently at the few wagons I encountered, but none were manned by an old man and a young pale girl. When I reached the far side, I was unsure what to do. I rode into the yam not far from the bridge and asked the keeper, a middle-aged Hotcangara named Moonjah, if he had seen them. He had not, but he did know whom I meant and confirmed that they usually crossed this bridge early in summer. I decided I was too early and spent the night at the yam.

The next morning, I saw that there were some hills to the west, and I decided I had better consult my guide again, since I felt I was missing something. I took along a few provisions and set out westward. I reached the hills in the evening and climbed a likely looking one for the night. There were few trees on the hill and a light breeze made it quite pleasant there for the night. Yet, I found it impossible to contact my guide—there was a distracting presence on the hill. That night I dreamt of a battle. Mongols on horseback were riding around a dwindling group of Hotcangara firing arrows into them. The hatred of the trapped men was palpable. It seemed to clutch at my throat and make it hard for me to breathe. The next morning, I returned to the yam not at all rested.

When I reached the yam that evening, I asked Moonjah about the hills. He confirmed that some of them had been made to bury the dead from a battle long ago. There had been so many dead that it was deemed easier to pile them up and cover them with earth. He had heard reports of people sleeping uneasily there. I confirmed his reports and asked if Hiacoomes had arrived yet. He told me that he had not. Again I was unsure what to do, so I spent another night at the yam. The next morning, I was just weighing whether I should go south in hopes of meeting them on the road when I heard an unpleasantly familiar voice.

“Well, if it isn’t the hero of the Tenocha Revolt,” Aztahua greeted me.
“Has your employer exiled you also?” I asked.
“No. He has sent me on an errand. He will be so pleased to see that you are well.”
“Of course, he will. I often felt his protecting embrace while on campaign in the Khanate of the Clouds.” “I’m sure you did. How is your wonderful family?”
“They are well as far as I know. How is Texcalla?”
“Still there when I passed through on the way here.”
“Decided not to chance the southern route this time, did you?”
“No need to cover old ground. Are you on your way to Khanbalikh?”
“No, are you?”
“Perhaps. Where are you going?”
“What interest is that of yours?”

“Oh, I see. You are making the grand tour like all the other veterans seem to do. No wonder the roads and yams are crowded with ne’er-do-wells.”

“Perhaps. Maybe if you tried a tour of duty you’d be a bit more sympathetic.”
“What makes you think I haven’t?”
“I can tell.”
“Interesting. Do you want me to give your regards to your cousin?”
“No, coming from you he might take it the wrong way.”

Not wishing to give anyone like him any ammunition he could use against me, I left the yam and rode north. Much as I expected I was soon being followed. I crossed the Mongol River and rode on to a yam just on the other side of the bridge. My shadow soon arrived. He was probably another Texcalla. I had my horse made ready so I could leave before first light and went right to bed. I rose while it was still dark and made my way to the coral. My horse was ready and, I noticed, so was another. I mounted up and rode quickly northward on the main road. By first light I could see that I was again being followed. When the road reached a wooded patch, I rode down a small path that led east toward the Missi Sipi River. When I reached the river, I started back south again along a small path that hugged the riverbank. I camped for the night in small thicket near the southern edge of the woods. I heard no sound that night. The next morning, I checked to see if any other tracks had crossed mine in the night. There were none.

I decided to continue along the river path. Because of the wide bend of the river, I had still not reached the confluence with the Mongol River by nightfall. There was a small house nearby, but I did not want to leave a track, so I stayed away. Once it was dark, I went down to riverbank and looked for a boat. I finally found one and launched it while leading my horse behind me. The current was still quite swift and we were carried well south before I managed to get us across the river. I beached the boat and found I was within sight of the large pontoon bridge. I rode for it and again crossed it, peering intently at anyone in a wagon or cart. Again, I made it all the way across without finding them. I rode up the road a little way and made camp in a small copse of trees. I was in sight of the yam and the bridge from this vantage point, but could not be seen from either.

I was sick at heart that my youthful stupidity might now endanger my dream girl. I couldn’t believe my miscreant cousin still wanted me dead. Of course, it could have been merely a coincidence that the vile Aztahua crossed my path. I wondered why George would send him on mission in the Khakhanate. He was so obviously from Anahuac, he could hardly blend in. Perhaps it was a harmless mission. Still, I couldn’t take any chances. After all, I had been followed. It least it looked like I had been followed. The next morning, I waited until all the travelers staying at the yam had left, and I joined the road traffic moving toward the bridge. Once I reached the yam, I turned in and sought out Moonjah.

“Moonjah, have you seen Hiacoomes yet?”
“Not yet.”
“Did the man from Anahuac ask you about me?”
“Oh, the courier? Yes, he did. Of course, we veterans don’t tell tales on each other, do we?” “Did you serve in the Khanate of the Clouds?”
“Indeed I did, young man. I fought in the army of Ignace before he was killed. What a loss that was!” “A tragic loss. How did you come to serve there?”

“I was given a choice and thought that I would prefer mountains to jungles. Of course, we ended up in the jungle eventually anyway.”

 

“So I heard. I was in the mountains, on the coast, and back in the mountains again. They were very high mountains, higher than Anahuac. It was hard to breathe.”

“I heard that the mountains get higher as you go south. I understand that the seasons are also backward.” “It is true; you are well informed.”
“I have also heard about you, young Crow. I would never tell anyone anything about you without your leave.” “You have heard about me?”

“Oh yes. Any non-Maya who survives the ritual slaughter of their tumen becomes immortal in the eyes of those who serve in the Khanate of the Clouds.”

“Well, sometimes fate is puzzling.”
“Perhaps you still have much to do?”
“Perhaps. So the weasel claims to be a courier now?”
“So he said. Of course, I didn’t see any pouch.”
“Whatever he is, he is a devious character. I’m grateful that you told him nothing about me.”

“It was a pleasure, but actually, I told him you were on your way north and had been held up here a couple of days by a bout of fever. He was pleased to have all the information.”

 

“Even better. I am in your debt.”

 

“Not at all. Hiacoomes will surely be here soon, but perhaps you should not wait here. I noticed one of his henchmen followed you north.”

 

“Yes, I lost him in the woods, so he’ll probably be back today. I will lay low where I can keep an eye on the road.”

 

“Excellent. Best of luck to you.”

I thanked him and returned to my copse of woods by a circuitous route. I remember thinking that sweeping negative statements about Hotcangara would no longer come from me. The copse was big enough that I could enter it while only visible from the other side of the river. Once in, I could easily hide the horse from view and creep to within sight of the road, the yam, and the bridge. About midmorning, I noticed my would-be shadow riding in from the north. He stopped to confer with Moonjah, and then rode west. It looked like I was not deemed important enough to employ heroic efforts to find. I was relived. I waited until dark, then rode down to and across the bridge. Once on the far side, I waited a while, then started back across the bridge. There was only one wagon on the bridge as I crossed and I slowed down as I approached it. A very old man drove it.

“Hiacoomes?” I asked.
“Who wants to know?” the old man peered uncertainly at me.
“I am Karl, son of John of Anahuac.”
“You are the one who has been looking for me, aren’t you?”
“You heard?”

“Of course, we merchants stick together. Now what’s this twaddle about seeing my granddaughter once years ago and falling in love with her? That doesn’t begin to make any sense. What do you really want with me?”

“I suppose it does seem strange. But it is quite true. I was returning home from visiting my sister in the Panther Ordu when I passed your cart. I happened to look back and there was your great-granddaughter looking dreamily out of the rear of the wagon. I was still a boy then, but I have never forgotten her, and I bothered many of my relatives asking about you ever since.”

“Young man, if you were a boy that must have been almost ten years ago from the look of you.” “Nine to be exact.”
“Carlotta, come out here. You need to meet this madman.”

The wagon cover parted and a small young lady slipped out and sat beside Hiacoomes. She was hard to see in the flickering lamplight, but her eyes shone with an inner beauty that blinded me to everything else. I was speechless, enchanted, overwhelmed. I don’t know how long we stared at each other before Hiacoomes had had enough, but it should have been much longer.

“It is true! This young fool is besotted. What do you think we should do with him, Carlotta?”

He got no response from her. She, too, was rooted to her seat. She told me later that if she could have moved, she would have thrown herself into my arms. In seeing me all her sadness, loneliness, despair of ever having a family of her own disappeared, and she didn’t want anything to interrupt her rapture. I, on the other hand, recall that I wanted to sweep her into my arms and protect her with my life. Hiacoomes again broke into our reverie.

“Whatever it is, it appears to be contagious. I hope it isn’t fatal. I wonder if you two would mind if we got off this bridge before morning. I think I could use some sleep tonight.”

“Oh, forgive me, sir,” I said. “Please don’t go into Murenbalikh; there is sickness there.”
“Really? What sort?”
“My father calls it la’o. It is incurable and fatal after a few years of coughing and wasting.”

“Oh that. It is a plague of crowding. You don’t find it among my people. Thank you for the warning. Perhaps we will cross back to the other side for the night.”

“May I join you?”
“Might as well. I hope you won’t take her from me.”
“I thought I would go with you. Perhaps I can help.”

“A young warrior like you, the son of the great healer John, the grandson of the Immortal Raven, joins with a lowly merchant? Why?”

 

“There is nothing lowly about being a merchant. My sister and her husband are merchants. I would be honored to work with you. But even if you were the servant of goat herder, I would gladly join you to be near Carlotta.” “I knew this day would come eventually, even if she didn’t. If you will join us, it has turned out better than I had a right to hope. Welcome to your home, my son.”

His words struck a chord, but I was too besotted to remember that those were the very words spoken to me by the raven on the pole fetish in my dream. He carefully turned the wagon around and we crossed the bridge together. I rode my horse next to Carlotta. She shyly offered me her hand and I held it tightly all the way across. Once across, I prevailed upon them to bypass the yam and instead move north a way and camp under the stars. Hiacoomes nodded, knowingly and did as I asked. Once we were camped, Carlotta and I prattled endlessly until we fell asleep at last.

20
Wandering in the Khakhanate 96 K
(MO, IO, MN, SD, NB, 1464)

The next morning was bright and beautiful. I suspect if there had been a torrential downpour, I still would have thought it was bright and beautiful. Carlotta and I continued to get acquainted. I told her my life story without, I am proud to say, any embellishments. There was something about her trusting look that demanded complete honesty. She listened attentively and genuinely shared in my joys and sorrows. You would think I would have wanted to hear all about her first, but anyone who has lived long enough and observed human nature with his eyes open knows that men always are too willing to bore women with their stories before listening to anything they might have to say. At the same time, women are too willing to listen rather than take the lead and speak first.

In any case, it finally dawned on me that I knew almost nothing about her, and I very much wanted to know everything. She had never known her grandparents and only barely remembered her parents and her brother and sister. She did recall that she was fairer skinned than all the others and had light hair when she was very young. She was named for one of her grandfathers’ mother. Her grandfathers were from a town called something like “Sanjandeluz” in a land across the sea called “Lapuri” or something like that. That was all she knew about them. They spoke a strange language, but she didn’t know any of it. Her grandparents had died or disappeared as I had heard and her family had died when the Zhen plague virtually wiped out their band. The few survivors scattered to join relatives in other bands. She had been left with Hiacoomes, because none of the other survivors knew where her other relatives were, but all knew him. He had been glad to have her with him since his wife had recently died and he was all alone. He continued fishing for a year or so and got a neighbor to teach her all the womanly skills. Then he decided to become a merchant since the sea no longer cheered him and Capawake held too many unhappy memories.

Since then, they had traveled in a large circle every year, trading, buying, and selling. They had heard from Arneekwes that I was looking for them and why. It had amused Hiacoomes who joked that perhaps she would finally find a suitor. But it had intrigued her because she also remembered as if in a dream the day I first saw her. She had been in the back of the wagon and had heard some riders going by. Curious she had opened the covering in the back to look out. She saw a man and a boy ride around the left side of the wagon; then the boy looked back, and she was stunned to see he was even fairer than she and just then the sun broke through the clouds and shone on her face. When her vision adjusted to the bright light the riders were gone. It was a moment frozen forever in her memory. We were made for each other.

It occurs to me that I have yet to describe her. I remember at the time thinking she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Nothing has happened since to alter that opinion. But to be more specific, she had light, golden brown eyes, a medium nose, full lips, and a small chin. She had an oval-shaped face and a golden complexion. She was not as fair skinned as I, but was much lighter than anyone I had met besides my parents. Her hair was dark brown, long, and strait, and she wore it braided. She was of average height for a woman, but a good deal shorter than me. She was slim and graceful. In short, breathtakingly beautiful. I asked her how it was that no one had snatched her up by now. She said that Hiacoomes would never have ordered her to marry anyone, and until I came along, she had never meet anyone she was interested in getting to know better.

Hiacoomes felt compelled to intrude on our mooning over each other that evening. We had continued north and I again suggested that we avoid the yams and camp out. He correctly suspected that I must have some reason for not wishing to be seen. I explained my situation to him and my reasons for suspecting that George still wished me ill even though I had remained in exile as he ordered. He listened intently to the whole story.

“It has been my experience,” he said, “that the best way to stay out of trouble is to keep a low profile. I can’t help but notice that every soldier we pass salutes you with some deference. If they all know who you are, do you really think avoiding yams will enable you to pass unnoticed through the countryside? If you wish to make yourself invisible you will have to stop looking like a warrior.”

“What do you suggest?”
“You said you wanted to join us, so why not become a merchant?”
“What else do I appear to be now?”

“Other than a moonstruck suitor, I suppose you appear to be a warrior who has either volunteered or been hired to protect a doddering old merchant from the dangers of the road.”

 

“What should I do?”

“It would be easy enough to dress you like a merchant and get you off your horse and into the wagon. However, your complexion rather gives you away in any disguise, as does your brown hair. I can help you with those, but then there is the problem of the blue eyes. I’m afraid the best we can do is to make you less noticeable. Of course, then there is also the matter of your bearing.”

“My bearing?”

“Yes. You walk like a conqueror. Merchants tend to be deferring, ingratiating, unthreatening. There is also the small matter that you have asked so many people about us that should they be questioned one or the other is bound to mention that you were looking for us and, since I have been taking the same route for years, we can be easily tracked down.”

“I can work on my bearing if you think it is important, but as to your route, why not change it?” “What do you suggest?”

“I heard that you invariably turn east soon and head for your people at this time of year. Why not instead, turn west and follow the mountains south, then turn toward the lands of the Chahiksichahiks and their relatives the Kitikiti’sh and the Kadohadacho? They are all wealthy tribes who welcome merchants.”

“We could do that. I would miss my old friends along the usual way, but we could do that.” “Good. Why don’t we continue north to the land of the Anishinabe, then turn west to the areas of the Ocheti shakowin and the Dzitsiista?”

“I don’t speak those languages. I hope they all speak Mongol.”
“I know a smattering of the first two and quite a bit of the last. My sister-in-law is Dzitsiista.”

“Very good! This will be a most-interesting trip. You seem to know quite a bit of the land for someone who has never been here before.”

 

“I owe it all to studying maps. I have always loved them and could probably draw a map of the Khakhanate from memory with good accuracy.”

“An interesting talent. Did you make use of it during your campaigns?”
“No, each tumen has an official mapper. They didn’t need me.”

“I’m glad I missed out on campaigning. It seems like a lot of travel to bother people just minding their own business so a Khan may feel a bit more important.”

 

“In general, that is true, but they don’t all mind their own business. We interrupted the Inka while they were conquering their way northward. The Chimu also appeared to have conquered quite a bit of territory.” “Yes, but then there are all the people in between.”

“Most of them joined without a fight; the more warlike had to be conquered. But it is safe to assume a warlike tribe would eventually attack its neighbors, so perhaps it is just as well. I would perhaps be a bit more enthusiastic if the Khan of the Clouds was a decent man.”

“Isn’t he related to you?”
“Yes. I think my family has used up its allotted competence to rule.”
“So, you think Cautantowit (the Wampanoag name for God) only allows each family so much competence?” “Who knows? My brother thinks that Smoking Mirror and his family would have been better rulers than ours.”

“I wouldn’t know about such things. The Mongols have brought us peace. I can freely travel all over the land without fear from any man. In my grandfathers’ time, we could not travel much off our island without running afoul of enemies. The campaigns let all the young men get fighting out of their systems at a safe distance from those of us who have no interest in being drawn into it. Even if I think it is foolish, it serves a greater good. Now we only die from disease or natural catastrophes or, best of all, old age.”

“My Ani’ Yun’-wiya ‘mother’ would agree with you.”

 

“A wise woman. You would have saved us all a bit of trouble had you heeded her instead of the old fool of a warrior.”

 

“I suppose so. Still, I do feel people should be able to choose their own rulers.”

 

“Spoken like an Ani’ Yun’-wiya. The idea has some merit, but only for small groups. How could the entire

Khakhanate agree on any one man? It is best the way it is. Life is full of compromises.”
He was right, I supposed, but I always wondered if there wasn’t some way to adapt the Ani’ Yun’-wiya system to the Khakhanate. Hiacoomes was a wise old man and very practical. It was a pleasure talking to him. Carlotta and I were at the stage where we hardly needed words. Meanwhile, Hiacoomes gave me a stain for my skin and hair and some ill-fitting ‘merchant clothes’ and I practiced my merchant bearing. Much as he predicted, the soldiers who passed us ignored me, as did most other people. To further avoid attention, he also prevailed on Carlotta to stain her skin and hair. The effect was rather odd. I felt that I looked like an Ocheti shakowin and she looked like a Dzitsiista. I wondered if those tribes would share my impression when we reached them.

We continued north slowly, only about twenty-five to thirty li a day. Sometimes Carlotta and I would walk alongside the wagon for a change and sometimes we would drive it while Hiacoomes rested. Each night we would camp along the way. There always seemed to be a spot where one could camp out if he wished. This was still Hotcangara country and often the woods would give way to large cleared areas already planted with centli in the mounds they favored in the north with the squash and bean plants planted on the sides of the mounds. Often there would be women working in the fields, but no one even looked up at a merchant wagon passing by. Once in a while, Hiacoomes would stop at a town to trade. Carlotta and I always stayed in the background during this procedure and were dismissed as servants by the customers.

By midsummer we were reaching the fringes of Hotcangara land and approaching the Anishinabe area. The days were rather warm and the air humid. The rain had begun to let up and we would often have clear starry nights. One evening we set up camp in a meadow. It looked like it had once been a field or a beaver pond that had drained. There was a small, fresh stream running right through it. The open area was covered in a soft grass that was about knee high. We had turned off on a smaller road that led northwest, somewhat away from the Missi Sipi River. There was a soft, gentle smell of grass in the air and one of those beautiful, starry nights. Carlotta and I were sitting together in front of the fire staring wistfully into it when Hiacoomes came over and sat next to us. He also contemplated the fire for a while before he spoke.

“I don’t suppose you two wish to be married?”
“Of course!” we both answered almost simultaneously.
“Well, I thought I would ask. Do your people have any special rituals you go through, my boy?” “No. We generally defer to whatever our spouses wish.”
“Very accommodating of you. Have your people no customs of their own?”

“Not that I know of. As you no doubt gathered, my people are originally from the land across the sea from where Carlotta’s grandfathers were, except that it was called the Holy Roman Empire. But we have lived as Mongols for generations; then we came to this land where the customs and beliefs are stronger than those of the Mongols, so we have adapted to some of them.”

“How did your ancestors wed?”

“My grandfather wrote that he and his wife were married before her uncle, by simply declaring their wish to be married and he declared them married. My father was married according to Ani’ Yun’-wiya customs the first time, but I don’t know what he did when he married my mother. My brothers and sisters were married according to their spouse’s tribal customs. I think my great-grandfather was married before his father-in-law, some sort of priest.”

“Well, our customs are very simple. The couple declares their wish to be married and they are. I should tell you that I am not in any way related to a sachem, so I belong the class called sannops. Carlotta as the descendant of outsiders might be considered to be of the lowest class by some of my people. In our village, however, she was held to be a member in good standing of the Wolf Clan. By marrying her you would also be considered a member of the Wolf Clan. Of course, if you never live among my people this should not matter to you, but I thought you should know.”

“Well, among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya I am held to be a member of the Bird Clan. According to their ways I would remain in that clan even if I married a member of our Wolf Clan.”
“Since I am a member of the Turtle Clan, I am in no position to object to it if you wish to remain a member of your own clan. The truth is, many of my people have strayed from the old ways and I really have no objection to what you two young people choose to do. I just thought I would tell you how the old ways would be. Actually, according to the old ways you, as an outsider, would most definitely be a member of the lowest class. So I wouldn’t blame you for eschewing my tribe’s rituals for some other.”

“I am completely satisfied with the simplicity of your marriage practice, but I would wish to request your approval.”

“It is thoughtful of you to ask my approval. In point of fact, I do not feel in a position to approve or disapprove. Carlotta is no child and neither are you. If this is what you both wish and you are fully aware of what you are doing, I will raise no objection.”

“It isn’t enough that you don’t object, Grandfather,” Carlotta said. “It is very important to me that you approve. Is there something that is bothering you?”

“Yes, there is. Crow is a fine young man, a credit to his parents. I would be honored to be related to him and his illustrious family by marriage. However, he has very powerful enemies and may be hounded by them for the rest of his life. We have made him and ourselves less visible and will seemingly disappear to all who have known us on this new route, but the danger remains and I hope you are prepared to never have a normal life.”

“Have I ever had a normal life? Did I ever complain or express regret that I have not been raised in a village like most people? Can you think I would pass up on being married to the perfect man for me because I might not get to settle down in a village, a life I barely remember? I am not afraid of spending my life in hiding or exile or whatever Cautantowit decides.”

“Then, my dear child, you have my enthusiastic approval. I would remind you, however, Cautantowit does not interfere in our lives, that is done by the lesser gods.”

She threw her arms around his neck and then turned back to me and did the same. I returned her hug warmly. I was touched by her love, but troubled by Hiacoomes’ point. I loved her too much to put her in any danger and too much to let her get away. She sensed that something was bothering me and asked about it. I said that I had to consult my spirit guide before we got married. She seemed troubled by that, but said no more. We had already had dinner so I proposed that we stay in the meadow an extra day so I could fast and find a good spot to contact my guide. All agreed. The next morning, I had a small meal, then walked around the periphery of the meadow to make sure there were no dangerous animals lurking near. It seemed to be quite safe, so I returned to camp to take my leave. Carlotta clung to me for a long moment as if to seek reassurance.

“Don’t worry, my love,” I told her. “I’m sure my guide is on our side.”

Hiacoomes wished me well. I could tell he very much approved of my decision. There were no mountains that I could see in the area, so I withdrew into the woods for some distance until I found an outcrop of boulders incongruously jutting out of the ground. They were not too high and I easily scrambled to the top. It afforded me no view at all, for the treetops were higher than the rock pile. Still, it did seem like a sort of mountain and I sat down and prepared myself for my consultation. The day grew warm; then clouds rolled in, and quick rainsquall moved through; then it grew humid, and more, darker clouds came in. It was obvious I was not doing well, since I was so distracted by the weather. Finally, I suppose a little before dusk, I made contact with my guide. When we finished it was twilight and I was soaked through from another rain shower, which I hadn’t even noticed. My guide had been quite supportive, so I didn’t care how wet I was. I slid down from the rock pile and ran back to camp. It was fully dark when I arrived, but I ran headlong until I reached Carlotta and drew her close to me.

“I must marry you,” I said at last.

Over dinner Hiacoomes suggested that we marry in the morning. We could then keep two of the horses while he continued on the way. That way we could have some time to ourselves as all newlyweds should, and then we could catch up to him when we were ready. We both needed some reassurance that he could manage by himself for a few days, but he insisted that he would be fine, and if he ran into any trouble he would just camp and wait for us. The next morning we both bathed and presented ourselves before Hiacoomes. He witnessed our marriage and gave us both a fatherly hug. We helped him get ready and saw him off down the road. Then we returned to our meadow and found a new spot for a camp, well away from the road. We set up our camp and began the most wonderful few days of my life. Even now if I close my eyes, I can relive every moment of that incredible time.

With great difficulty, we both agreed on the evening of the fifth day that we were too concerned about Hiacoomes to remain there any longer. We reluctantly broke camp the next morning, renewed our stains on hair and skin, and with a last look to burn it all into our minds, we left our meadow. We regained the road and set off after Hiacoomes. Carlotta told me how grateful she was that I had not insisted on taking her from him, for she felt very protective of him. I couldn’t imagine being so close to a parent, but he was all she had for almost all her life; I had more family than I knew what to do with. As we rode, we asked a few questions about those little details that escape one at the moment, but then return to puzzle.

“Why does your band have classes?” I asked. “I thought the Mongol rule ended such nonsense.” “Officially it is ended,” she shrugged, “but I was never really accepted as a member of the Wolf Clan in many of the mainland villages.”

“How is it that the Zhen plague struck your village with such devastation? It has become little more than a nuisance in the south. In fact, my father took me to a town where it was raging to make sure I would have it as a child when it is less dangerous. I would think it would have only killed a few in your village.”

“I understand it was long that way on the mainland, but on Capawake and the other islands, the plague never struck before the time it wiped out my village. Now it is different on the islands and should never happen again.”

Then, of course, she had a few for me about Anahuac and all my relatives. She very much wanted to meet my brother Theodore, my sisters Sarah and Mathilde, and even my father. The most difficult question she had for me was what the Holy Roman Empire was. I tried to explain what Grandfather had written, but I had to admit that even he did not seem to understand the concept. I speculated that since there were high priests ruling in parts of it, it was considered holy (although in my experience any connection between priests and holiness was coincidental). I didn’t have any idea what Roman meant, but empire was the word for Khanate. I’m afraid I wasn’t much help, but she had an understandable curiosity about her grandfathers’ homeland.

We rode at a good clip and caught up with Hiacoomes on the evening of the third day. We found him in good health and delighted to see us. We returned to our routine continuing west of north. We were in Anishinabe land now and he enjoyed trading with a different people. He picked up a good supply of copper that he thought would be welcome in the south. In our disguise we would occasionally stay at yams now and never attracted the least attention. Mostly, however, we enjoyed the mild northern summer and camped along the way. He always made sure to give us as much privacy as was possible, further endearing him to us.

Eventually, we came into Ocheti shakowin country. They originally were more widespread to the north and east, but since so many of them had joined the Khanate with their whole families, there was only a remnant of them left behind in a few scattered villages in the southwest corner of their old tribal area. The Anishinabe had expanded into most of their old homelands. Just beyond them we encountered the Dzitsiista not long before autumn. Coincidentally, the village of my sister-in-law, Mahwissa, was one of those we passed through. Hiacoomes made some careful inquiries and that evening we were visited by her brother, Hotoa. He was puzzled that a merchant would know his sister and wondered where he had made her acquaintance. At this point, he stepped aside and I presented myself.

“Mahwissa is married to my brother, Theodore,” I explained.
“I know Theodore.” He eyed me suspiciously. “You look nothing like him.”
“I am somewhat disguised. But, in fact, I don’t look much like him.”
“Are you the one called the Crow?”
“Yes.”

“Why are you in disguise? I have heard how you covered yourself in glory on campaign. You would be honored wherever you went. I would be honored to welcome you as a guest.”

I explained my situation briefly and prevailed upon him not to let anyone know I was here. He agreed, but was obviously disappointed. He told me that it was all over the Khakhanate how I had rashly volunteered to join the Maya tumen and, in spite of being so much taller and such an inviting target, had survived and been promoted all the way to minghan commander, and would have been given command of a tumen had I chosen to remain. I briefly outlined the real story for him, but he liked his version better. I asked if anyone had mentioned what had become of me since. He said it was variously rumored that I was on a secret mission for the Khan of Anahuac, that I was looking for a mysterious merchant and a white girl, that I had decided to campaign in the Khanate of the Green Mist, or that I had simply disappeared, but would return when suitable foes presented themselves. When I told him the true story, he thought it rather romantic, but still preferred the rumors. I asked him to tell his sister to tell my brother the real story, but say nothing about me to anyone else. He agreed and added that if I ever needed his help, I had only to ask. I thanked him and he embraced Carlotta and me before he left.

I was more than a little bewildered how my story had been so exaggerated and by whom, for that matter. I doubted that my few surviving Maya comrades would be spreading such tales, and even if they did, it would only be among their own people. The Maya never wandered around; they always went straight home after campaign. I couldn’t imagine my cousin Theodore telling such tales, either. He had no imagination; he would only tell the truth. My Ani’ Yun’-wiya relatives would also refrain from spreading tall tales about me; it wasn’t considered polite. I was truly baffled by it and I wondered if it would hold me in enough good stead among the soldiers to preclude any move they might be ordered to make against me. In the end, I decided that it would be naive to think I would be safe, when even my revered grandfather had a narrow escape from an assassin sent secretly by the Khan. I would remain hidden.

Carlotta was impressed by my reputation and wondered if perhaps I had modestly played my war record down. I assured her I had been scrupulously honest with her. She agreed with Hotoa that the legend made a better story. I was not amused. Hiacoomes offered that if what Hotoa said was true, it was very unlikely that anyone would make any move against me. I retold him the story of the assassin sent after my grandfather and he saw my point. In any case, he assured me, he was enjoying the change and all the new customers he was meeting on this trip.

We were traveling more westerly after leaving the Dzitsiista and eventually came upon a village of Yanktonai, who had moved south to the Kensistenoug River. They were a very friendly people, not unlike the Dzitsiista, and welcomed the odd merchant who wandered into their midst. Hiacoomes had a wonderful time trading with them. They were quite interested in the reddish stone that is used to make pipes. He always had some of that on hand. They mostly offered furs and hides in trade. Carlotta and I did some fishing in the river while Hiacoomes enjoyed himself. Having Carlotta with me made the people leave me alone. No one wanted to intrude on the young lovers. Since I couldn’t hide my blue eyes, it was very helpful that no one got close enough to notice. Instead, they would smile knowingly and wander off.

Once we had left Anishinabe territory, the forest gave way to grassland. At first, it was intermittent; then the grassland predominated except along the rivers. The grass was much higher now, almost over my head when I was on foot. Because it was much drier now, there was the danger of grass fires. As a precaution, we tended to travel the roads that wend alongside rivers. We picked up the South Dzitsiista River in the Ocheti shakowin area and followed it to the North Dzitsiista River (to Dzitsiista country). Once across the latter, we followed its tributary, the Kensistenoug, (apparently Juchi first encountered elements of that tribe along this river somewhere) where we found the Yanktonai. That river led us southwest for several days, and then it turned sharply to the northwest. We left the river and spent a tense few days making our way to the Bear River (I have no idea how it got its name, but I suspect the mapper who named it had a story to tell). The grass had now become a mixture of tall and shorter grasses, but there were still woods along the riverbanks. We followed the Bear along its east bank until a fire forced us to cross it. The woods and the river stopped the fire and few of the trees were harmed. Actually, the river was wide and shallow enough that we could have stayed in the river had the other bank caught fire. As it happened, we had to cross back over again several days later when the west side was on fire. With all the smoke and coughing, Hiacoomes was not sure he wanted to spend much more time on the plains.

By late autumn, we were approaching the Mongol River. We were about one hundred eighty li upstream from Khanbalikh at this point. Much as I would have liked to see the capital, I thought it best to bypass it and Hiacoomes agreed. He had heard that anyone who enters the capital is carefully scrutinized and all bows and spears are confiscated. It would seem Theodore was right in characterizing the Khakhan as being overly cautious. The nearest bridge across the Mongol was on the eastern side of the Bear, where we just happened to be, so we crossed over the bridge and stopped briefly at the yam on the far side for some supplies. As usual, Carlotta and I stayed in the wagon while Hiacoomes got what we needed. He returned with a troubling story.

The yam keeper was a Menominiwok ininiwok named Inemeku. He recognized Hiacoomes and told him that there had been a strange man from the Khanate of Anahuac looking for him. He had assured the man that Hiacoomes never came this far west. The man said that he knew that, but since he seemed to have disappeared near Murenbalikh about the same time as had a criminal he was following, he thought that perhaps he had come to grief or been forced to go elsewhere. Hiacoomes assured him that he was well and had not met any criminals, but had merely decided it was time for a change of route. He asked Inemeku to not mention having seen him, since he had no business in Anahuac and suspected foul play. Inemeku readily agreed and wished him good trading on his new route.

I asked Hiacoomes if he felt he could trust this Inemeku. He was sure he could since he had long had good relations with the man’s family. I asked why he was so far from his people’s lands. He admitted that it had not occurred to him to ask, but it was not surprising to find yam keepers from tribes located far away from where they had their yams. He had once run across a Leni lenape running a yam in the lands of the Taunika. I wasn’t sure what to do but decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to turn off toward the west for a few days and pick up another road to the south. He reminded me of the need to follow rivers and suggested we continue south until we reached the North Chahiks River before turning west. I recalled that there was a small river nearby which flowed into the Plains Oxen River which in turn flowed into the Chahiks. Unfortunately, it joined the Chahiks very close to the Mongol and there was a tumen stationed right at the confluence of those two rivers. However, there was a small tributary of the Plains Oxen that we could follow to its source, which was near another small tributary of the Chahiks, which would bring us to that river some 240 li west of the Mongol. This route would only take us away from a river for a day at a time, and no one would expect us to go that way. Hiacoomes reluctantly agreed and expressed the fond hope that we would not run into any more fires along the way. Since it was still autumn, I told him that by now the fires had already swept the area. That was just as well, for I suspected some of the small rivers we would be following would be little more than trickles by now, and would afford little protection from fire. There were some Tanish villages along this part of the Mongol, but we easily avoided them. We were not south enough to avoid the harsher winter weather and we needed to pick up the pace.

21
More Wandering
and Meeting the Khakhan, 96–8 K
(NB, KS, OK, AR, LA, MS, TN, IL, MO, IO, 1464-6)

We reached the Chahiks River without incident and moved easily across the wide, shallow river. We turned west on the road that ran parallel to the river some distance from the bank (beyond flood stage, no doubt). We passed a few villages of the Chahiks-i-chahiks along the way and stopped to do a little trading. We encountered other travelers occasionally, and all would greet us, except for the soldiers who rode past without even glancing at us. We continued along the Chahiks for some days until it began to turn north. We then turned south on a little-used trail for a few days until we reached Stampede Creek. The trail passed by the creek, but we turned and followed it downstream toward the southeast ultimately bringing us to the Owl River. Once across the Owl River we encountered more Chahiks-i-chahiks towns. Over the years, they had spread north and west and the Owl had become their southern frontier.

Hiacoomes did some trading in the small towns, and then we followed a vague trail southward to the Kitikitish River. We were in the tall, grass prairie again, although much of it had burned away during the summer and fall, and we would only encounter patches of new growth, patches of tall grass, and patches of black stubble along the way. It was early winter, but we still had not had a freeze. There were no more Chahiks-i-chahiks towns, but we soon encountered Kitikiti’sh villages. They, too, had expanded north and west. As we continued down along the river, the towns became larger and their fields more extensive. We had our first freeze at the same time the grassland gave way to forest. The trail became a road and again was well traveled, mostly by merchants.

It was full winter when we reached the Kadohadacho River. It had snowed a few times, but not heavily, and we could still move easily along the roads. We crossed the river and turned east along the broad road that ran parallel to it. We soon ran into the towns of the Kadohadacho. Hiacoomes was very much enjoying trading with them since they esteemed merchants and made them most welcome. He insisted we stop in all their towns along the way making our progress very slow. It occurred to me that we would be passing by the ancient abandoned town I had wanted to visit long ago when I was on my way back home from Itsati. In early spring, we came upon it. I knew it the moment I saw it. It was just like Grandfather described it. I told Hiacoomes and Carlotta about it and we camped there for the day and explored a little. It was a rather exposed site so the wind had kept the snow cover to a minimum, and most of it had already thawed. Hiacoomes asked if it had been a Kadohadacho town. I explained that according to my grandfather it was neither Kitikiti’sh nor Kadohadacho, but some other tribe’s abandoned settlement.

He seemed quite curious about it and, after looking around awhile, sat down in the middle of the settlement and closed his eyes. We assumed he was meditating so we respectfully moved away to the edge of the settlement and sat on the bluff looking down at the river enjoying the mild day. Eventually, he joined us and announced that the people who had lived here had been ordered to move east by their gods. I didn’t ask him how he came to that conclusion, since it was as plausible as any I could suggest. He added that there had been some dissension when the need to move had been announced, but in the end, the tribe had gone on as ordered. Their descendants lived across the Missi Sipi River. I supposed that was also possible.

We continued trading our way along the Kadohadacho River reaching Yatasi Territory late in the spring. When we came to the loop in the river, we turned south to pick up the Salt River. When we reached the Salt, we joined some Yatasi who were boiling down some of the water to make salt and also secured some for ourselves. We continued along the river for a while passing other small groups from various tribes also making salt from the river. We finally came to the juncture with the Red River. Here was a very large town of a tribe belonging to the Hasinai Confederacy. We were made welcome and Hiacoomes set to trading while Carlotta and I tried fishing in the Red River.

We spent most of the summer wandering south along the Red River and stopping at all the large towns to trade. Eventually, the towns were no longer Hasinai, but rather Hais, another group associated with the Kadohadacho, although their language was different. Fortunately, almost everyone spoke Mongol. We remained on the road on the east side of the river, which was actually more of a trail, and the towns along its banks were smaller, but the trading was still quite good.

We followed the Red River all the way to the Missi Sipi, passing from Hais lands to Taunika lands and from summer into fall along the way. The latter also made Hiacoomes welcome and he was quite pleased with the trading. It was late fall when we crossed the Missi Sipi on the very long pontoon bridge above the mouth of the Red River. I remember remarking how slowly we had been traveling and how we were reaching the southeast at just the right time of year. I also remember that it was a mild, pleasant morning and the sun shone brightly on the muddy, sluggish water of the big river. The brightness made it hard to see much clearly and there was a bit of a mist on the far side. I was walking alongside the horses to keep them calm across the long bridge. As we approached the far side, we entered the mist; then just as we reached the shore, we stepped out of the mist into a blinding sunlight.

“Halt!” a strong voice rang out.
A squad of soldiers quickly surrounded us. One of them held on to the horses while the officer approached me. The others fanned out around us in a semicircle with spears at the ready but not yet pointed. The officer looked at me closely, then stepped back and saluted me.

“The Khakhan requests the honor of your attendance at his court, Minghan Commander Crow. We are charged with escorting you there.”

“May I have a few minutes?” I asked.
“Of course, sir,” he replied and withdrew a discreet distance.

Carlotta looked devastated, and Hiacoomes looked worried, but I reassured them. I told them that since the Khakhan wanted me, there was nothing to worry about. They should continue on their way. I would rejoin them as soon as possible, or if there were any complications, I would send them word. I urged them to stay in the south for the winter along the merchant trails so I could find them or send them word. I changed into my old clothes, embraced Carlotta and Hiacoomes, and joined my escort. We mounted up and turned north along the road that ran parallel to the eastern bank of the Missi Sipi. I rode next to the leader, a jagun commander from the Eagle Tumen named Tatanka Ptecela. He was Ocheti shakowin as were most of his men and they treated me with great deference. They did not guard me closely and I made no attempt to escape. When we camped, we talked about hunting, campaigning, the weather—everything except why they were taking me to the Khakhan. It was as if there was an unspoken agreement between us not to bring it up. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was certain I had done nothing to turn the Khakhan against me. Of course, Theodore had warned me that he was very cautious and perhaps my nemesis, Aztahua, had told him some lie about me. Still it would be better to know and confront the situation as it was than speculate endlessly about what it might be. Puzzling over this helped distract me only slightly from my devastation at being separated from Carlotta only a year and half after finally finding her. She was almost always on my mind. If I was uncomfortably cold, I would be glad she was in the south, if I saw a particularly beautiful scene, I wished she were with me to share it. Every night I would fall asleep reliving our trek across the plains this past year. At least I had that memory and nothing could take it away. In any case, I would finally get to see the capital of Khakhanate, Khanbalikh. Of course, I wished Carlotta would be with me so we could discover it together.

We rode quickly, changed horses at every yam and camped wherever darkness overtook us. Fifteen days later, we were crossing the Wazhazhe over the westernmost bridge. Four days later we were crossing the Missi Sipi just below Murenbalikh. The next day we crossed the Mongol and turned west along its northern bank. By now, the weather had grown quite cold and there was generally snow on the ground or falling out of the sky. It was not yet deep, however, and did not slow us down much at all. Fourteen days after we crossed the Mongol, we arrived at Khanbalikh. The land was quite flat except for the deep cuts made by the rivers, so it was hard to see what the city looked like from this approach. It just looked like a huge tent city. We entered from the south along a road of packed-down snow. There was no wall or gate, but there were sentries just before the first tents. The sentries saluted us as we approached and my escort led me up the road toward what appeared to be a raised area in the center of the city. As we got closer to it, it appeared to be elevated ground enclosed by logs. Before we reached it, however, we turned off on a side road and stopped at a large yurt with a pair of guards in front. I dismounted and entered the yurt receiving a salute from the guards.

The yurt was not occupied, so I warmed myself up by the fire for a while until a soldier came in and asked if I wished to bathe. I did and he brought me large basin and some slightly warmed water. As I was drying off, he brought me some rather splendid clothes to put on. There was a finished silk shirt dyed red, black woolen pants, and fine leather boots. He also gave me a heavy fur coat and hat for when I stepped outside. Once I was bathed and changed, he brought in a large meal, bowed, and left me alone. After finishing eating, I looked around the yurt. There were several sleeping areas and in one corner there was a shelf with some book scrolls in the old style. I looked through them. There were a few books in the Hanjen characters, but most were in Mongol. One was called Heroic Adventures and seemed to be some rather exaggerated retelling of the discovery journeys of Grandfather and Juchi as well as some of the smaller mapping expeditions. I preferred my history unvarnished, but it was rather diverting reading. I wondered what Grandfather would have thought about it, especially the story of how he single-handedly killed four of the great bears with only a dull knife. I read until it was rather late, and then I turned in for the night.

The next morning, a new guard brought in breakfast and left. I continued reading while I ate and after. I finished the tome around midday. I put on the overcoat and hat and went out for a walk. The guards saluted as I left, but made no move to stop me. I wandered through the yurt center of the city to the periphery where the house style varied greatly, from the conical hide tents, to the earth houses, to the stick and hide huts, and to the occasional yurt. It was a beautiful, clear, cold day and children were playing in the snow under their grandmothers’ watchful eyes, women were bustling about their household tasks, and men were testing their weapons, bringing in fish from the river or game from their traps or, mostly, standing around talking to each other. The occasional courier rode importantly through the streets at a good clip. I noticed that there were streets after a fashion. There seemed to be an order in the way the houses were laid out. They radiated out from the center (where the Khakhan’s compound was) forming rather neat, broad streets like the spokes of a wheel. Then more narrow streets or paths connected the spokes. It certainly reinforced the idea that the Khakhan was the center of our universe. The spoke or street I was walking along led me to the river, although not to the bridge across it. I could see that the river was beginning to freeze over along the banks and the pontoon bridge, a little downstream of my position, was being removed and stored. I watched the men work for a while, and then turned back.

I decided to look around the “inner yurt city” a little bit before returning to my yurt. It also was arranged to form the streets. The yurts closest to Khakhan’s compound were larger than those farther away. There were eight levels of yurts from what I could see. The Khakhan’s compound was on a mound about ten feet above the rest of the city, with a large cleared area around it. It was quite a large circular mound, well over a hundred feet in diameter. The mound was held in place by huge logs driven deep into the ground that extended about four feet above the surface of the mound. There were four long and broad ramps leading up to the mound, one from each of the cardinal directions. The huge stark white yurt of the Khakhan shone brilliantly in the winter sun. It was surrounded by a clear area and then a single layer of smaller yurts, which were a somewhat duller white. The standard of fifteen white horsetails rose high above the doorway to the Khakhan’s yurt, which was on the east side. It was very impressive.

I made my way back to my yurt, which was in about the third tier of yurts, and found a cold lunch waiting for me. I ate and returned to the bookshelf. I found a book about all the tribes in the Khanate and sat down with that one. It was rather a cursory overview of each tribe as it had been found with some rather presumptuous and even jaundiced interpretations of them. The Ani’ Yun’-wiya were described as “good warriors with rather bizarre notions of equality who pay too much attention to their women and waste too much time in ritual.” I could find no author for the book, but I was quite sure my grandfather had no hand in it. It actually hit the mark once in a while. The Mexica were summed up as “fierce warriors who are as likely to stab you in the back as die protecting your side. They give too much credence to their much-too-ambitious priests.” I continued to read the book that afternoon. The author could actually be quite funny on occasion, whether or not it was intentional. The author described the Huaxteca as “stubborn warriors with rather obscene dedication to the male member to the exclusion of even the pretense of common decency.” I could almost hear him sniff in disgust as I read that.

So it continued day after day. I was fed, offered a bath, took long or short walks about the city (depending on the weather), and read. I was down to the Hanjen books one evening when, finally, my yurt opened and an officer saluted me and asked me to follow him. I bundled up and went out into the wintry night. He led me up the southern ramp to the central compound. We went around to the front of the huge yurt, which was illuminated by torches. The guards saluted as we approached and I was led into the antechamber. There were blue silk curtains sectioning off the antechamber from the rest of the yurt, and a rug made of a kind of coarse fiber covered the ground. The antechamber was fairly large and manned by a small contingent of guards. I took off my hat and coat and lay them on the bench. My escort entered the next room alone, then returned and motioned me inside alone. I stepped into what appeared to be a short hall delineated by red silk curtains, but with a fine red wool rug on the floor. At the end of the hall were two more guards who parted a gold-colored curtain at the end and motioned me into the next room. This was a broad semicircular room, with gold curtains, a white wool carpet, and a small platform at the back covered with a plush white woolen rug on which was a single chair made of gold. It was not occupied, however, but a rather fussy-looking old man came up to me and urged me into one of the rooms that were curtained off from the throne room. The old man looked rather like a Mongol, but he had a strange accent. The room he ushered me into was not large and had a blue rug on the floor and white silk curtains on the “walls.” There was a small brazier in the back of the room glowing with hot coals and keeping the room quite warm. There were just two plain chairs in the room with a small table on the side of each. There was a goblet of kumis on each table. I was alone, as yet, so I remained standing by the brazier and waited.

The white curtain suddenly parted and a man perhaps forty years old and only slightly shorter than me darted into the room. He was muscular with powerful shoulders, but still appeared rather slim, with a straight posture and a sure stride. He had rather angular features, not at all like an old Mongol, but more like a Leni lenape or perhaps a Dzitsiista. He had deep-set, intense eyes that seemed to be trying to read me as he looked me over. He was wearing a raw silk shirt and leather pants just like any warrior, so I really wasn’t sure who he was.

“You are Minghan Commander Crow, son of John the Healer?” he announced more than asked. “I am, sir,” I answered.
“I don’t suppose you would recognize me. I am Kujujuk, the Khakhan.”
“An honor, sire.” I quickly bowed.
“You are very young to have covered yourself with so much glory on campaign.”
“I fear my exploits have been exaggerated beyond recognition.”

“Well, by some of the men, of course. But that is a good thing; it makes them want to match or exceed preposterously heroic efforts. However, I have read the official reports. Tumen commanders do not embellish anyone’s achievements but their own. They all wrote well of you. You have reason to stride boldly about the Khakhanate like a strutting cock, but instead you slither about disguised as a humble merchant. Why?”

“I wished to disappear from view and spend time with my new wife in peace. Her guardian is a merchant who is too old to be traveling about alone, so I joined him and disguised myself so as not to interfere with his trade.”

“You are telling me only a partial truth. I prefer the whole truth.”
“You put me in a delicate position, sire. I am unable to speak more fully under orders from my Khan.” “Curious. Does this withheld information have anything to do with me or my family?”
“No, sire, it is between him and me.”
“Do you feel you are under some threat in the Khakhanate?”
“Possibly, sire, but not from your hand.”

“Good. I would not want a hero to think he could not wander freely about my realm. Is your possible threat from a certain agent of your Khan-cousin?”

 

“Yes, sire. If he would meet me openly in single combat, I would not be concerned, but he is the sort who would lie in ambush.”

 

“Well he was, I suppose. It took a long time to get anything remotely resembling the truth out of him. How does this version sound to you? He was sent here to make sure you did not foment a revolution against me.” “That is outrageous.”

 

“Yes, I know. Next was, he was here to make sure you didn’t tell me any lies about your cousin, thereby causing trouble between us. How does that sound?”

 

“Doubtful. My cousin has no reason to doubt my loyalty.”

 

“Good, so far we are in agreement. What about, he was sent to spy on me and coincidentally see what you were doing.”

 

“I can’t imagine why my cousin would want to spy on you, sire.”

“No, I suppose you couldn’t. But it is quite normal. After all, I spy on him to make sure he is still loyal; he spies on me to make sure I’m not getting ready to move against him. As you can see, my spies are better than his. No matter. My understanding of your difficulties with your cousin are this: you were involved in a Tenocha plot to overthrow his father but thought better of it and exposed it to him. Of course, he already knew about it and was hoping to use your involvement to discredit your family before his father. Since you deprived him of that and instead were instrumental in making short work of the plot, he was forced to honor you instead. Of course, he took advantage of the confusion and killed his hapless father so he could take over the Khanate. He vented his frustration with you by sending you on campaign and making sure you were attached to the Maya tumen in the not unreasonable expectation that you would be killed in action. Against all odds you not only weren’t killed but were promoted a further two ranks for your exemplary service. Once more, he sent agents to kill you in Tamalameque, but your clever brother hid you and whisked you off to safety in my realm. How does that sound?”

“I don’t know what to say.” I was amazed. “Your spies seem to have ears all over my cousin’s palace. You know more than I do. I merely suspected him of patricide and only my brother was sure he was trying to kill me in Tamalameque. I thought he was finished with me.”

“Tell me, if you were in my place, would you move against your cousin for the patricide?” “I don’t know. I would want to do so, but so many innocent would die, I would have to give it much thought.”

“Tell me something else. If I find it necessary to move against your cousin, who would you support, him or me?”

 

“I must be honest with you. It would depend on whether you moved against him with or without provocation.”

“A very worthy, honorable answer. It was what I expected you to say. Unfortunately, it is an answer with consequences. But first, tell me if your admirable loyalty to your cousin is because of your kinship, or something else.”

“It is difficult to see my cousin George as kin, but his brother I do so acknowledge. However, my loyalty is to my grandfather’s Khanate, not the incumbent Khan.”

 

“Your grandfather would be more loyal to the Khakhanate than to himself.”

“You may be right, sire, but I recall he resigned rather than unjustly arrest his friend, your ancestor Juchi, as ordered by the Khan. I feel he would approve of my loyalty to his Khanate in the name of justice as well as my loyalty to you in the same name.”

“As I said, I respect your position, but it does have consequences. I can only have people who are blindly loyal to my slightest whim without concerning themselves with questions of justice. Still, I do concern myself with questions of justice and so will give you a choice. You may depart immediately to campaign in the Khanate of the Green Mist or you must return to the old land. Your wife and her guardian will not be affected by this and may continue as they are unless they wish to join you. Your exile will be for five years in either place, after which you may return if you still live. On the whole, I would suggest your chances are better in the Green Mist, but it is up to you.”

“May I give it some thought, sire?”

 

“Yes. You may tell me tomorrow morning. In either case, you must leave the following morning at first light. You may go.”

I bowed and withdrew from the small room. The old Mongol waved me impatiently through the throne room door into the hall. I regained the antechamber and retrieved my hat and coat. A guard took up a torch and led the way back to my yurt. I sat down heavily by the fire and weighed my options. I was devastated. Five years of separation from Carlotta. I couldn’t possibly take her into the uncertain fate of exile or campaign with me. I had not for a moment thought I would be exiled from the Khakhanate. My brother had warned me that the Khakhan was very suspicious, but I had thought complete honesty would hold me in good stead. I guess I had won his respect, but not his trust. I could see his point, I supposed, but found it excessively cautious. I was so lost in thought that I didn’t even notice the draught of cold air as the door opened and someone came into the yurt. He stood a while looking at me, then finally sat down on the chair next to mine, starting me out of my chair.

“Deep in meditation, Karl?” my brother Theodore asked.
“Where did you come from?” I stammered.

“Interesting question, but the easy answer is: from your lovely wife. I see your quest was successful. Congratulations. “

“How is she? And Hiacoomes?”
“Well, both of them, although very concerned about you. How went your interview with the Khakhan?” “Not that well, actually. Did you know he knows everything that happens in the Khanate?” “Well, not everything, just what happens in the Khan’s palace. What do you mean, not that well?” “I have to choose between exile to the old land or to campaign in the Green Mist.”
“What a choice! Have you decided yet?”

“No, well, yes, actually. When I returned with you from campaign last year, I told you I would not go on campaign again. I will go to the old land.”

“Are you sure that is your choice.”
“Yes.”

“Well, in that case tell the Khakhan you wish to travel overland to retrace the path of our ancestors. That way I can ensure that you arrive at your destination safely.”

 

“How?”

 

“How often have I told you, the less you know the better? Do you remember the path our people took? You read that book so many times you must have it memorized.”

 

“Yes, but it was spring when they came out of the north, it would be difficult to follow that path in the winter.” “Indeed, but you know the first leg from here is up the Mongol River to the site of the old Hawk Ordu. There is still a large settlement there, although the tumen is gone.”

 

“Yes, that’s right. Then I would have to continue upriver to the old Ox Ordu site, then turn north through the lands of the Siksika and then into the land of the Tinneh.”

“Precisely. Go to the Hawk Ordu and visit our cousin, the descendant of our grandfather’s brother Henry.” “The sword maker?”

“Yes, his descendants are still sword makers. Well, some of them are. But ask for the local sword maker and present yourself to him. His name is George.”

“Not exactly my favorite name these days.”
“Never mind that, just go see him. He’ll tell you what to do next.”
“Could you look after Carlotta while I’m away?”

“Of course. I have passed the word; she is well understood as being a member of our family. She will be taken care of by all of us. Now turn in and tell the Khakhan your decision in the morning. I must get going tonight. Don’t worry about anything.”

With that he turned and hurried out of the yurt into the night. I was amazed that he always seemed to know what was going on in my life and seemingly could always find me when he needed to do so. I felt very protected although I could not imagine how he was going to make my trek into exile an easy one. No one in his right mind traveled north in the winter. I had to wonder what would become of me, but decided not to worry about it any more. I retired for the night with my thoughts on my Carlotta and slept quite well. I dreamt she slept in my arms that night. The next morning I ate breakfast and went out into a steady snowstorm. There was little wind, but the snow was accumulating quickly. I found my way to the Khakhan’s yurt and presented myself to the guards. They ushered me into the antechamber. There I dusted myself off and waited while my arrival was announced within. Soon the head of the guard motioned me into the hall, where the guards held open the curtain for me. Once again, the old Mongol was there and again guided me to the same little room.

“What have you decided?” the Khakhan demanded as he strode briskly into the room.

 

“I have decided to return to the old land, sire. I would only request that I be allowed to retrace our ancestral route to the north.”

“In the middle of winter, you want to travel north?”
“Yes, sire.”

“You are very brave, or very foolhardy. In any case, you may go that way. You must be out of the Khakhanate by spring. Don’t try to settle along the coast like your grandfather did. Patrols will be looking for you there and along our northern frontier. They will have orders to kill you if they find you. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sire.”
“Well then, you may go and may Tengri guide your steps.”
“Thank you, sire.”
“Before you go. There is something I have been wondering about for some time now.”
“Yes, sire.”
“Is your brother Theodore involved in some sort of intrigue, or is he just the healer he appears to be.” “As far as I know, he is a very fine healer and nothing more.”
“Hmm. Well, at least he answered my question correctly. I was just wondering if he was answering honestly.” “Theodore has always been scrupulously honest with me, sire.”

“No doubt. Still I can’t help thinking he’s up to something. Time will tell. When you see him again, tell him I’ve got my eye on him. He visited you last night, but left before morning. He moves around too much to be a mere healer. Of course, he wouldn’t involve you in his intrigues, unless…did he tell you to pick exile over campaign?”

“No, sire, that decision was mine.”
“So be it. Good luck.”
“Thank you, sire.”

I bowed and retraced my path to my yurt. I got together my belongings and went to secure some supplies for the trip. I got a new bow and several bags of arrows; I got my sword and my knife sharpened. I got some warm clothing, a few extra blankets, and a supply of dried meat strips. I got together a few emergency medicines from the shaman and selected four strong hardy horses. I got a good night’s sleep and at first light was on my way out of Khanbalikh on the western road. The weather had cleared, but the snow was about a foot deep. Fortunately traffic had packed it down a bit on the road and I could see my path clearly as I left the city behind me.

22
The Road to Exile, 98 K
(IO, ND, MT, SK. AB 1466)

The road from Khanbalikh to Khartsgaibalikh (as the town on the site of the old Hawk Ordu was now called) turned sharply northwest three days after leaving the capital. Even in winter there was always steady traffic between the two cities so the road was easy to follow. That is not to say it was an easy ride. I found it necessary to change horses frequently to avoid jading them. It was so cold that the breath was sucked out of me as I moved along. I did not want to miss a yam along the way so I always left early and continued until I reached one. What would be an easy ride in the summer was very hard in the winter. I was forced to lay over for a few days in one yam while a blizzard raged. When it abated, I decided to wait another day so that someone else would break the trail for me. When I finally left, there was about three feet of snow on the ground, but the trail had been broken and I had reasonable hope of reaching the next yam. I did make it just at dusk, a little too close for comfort. Some ten days after leaving Khanbalikh, I arrived in Khartsgaibalikh.

There were no guards in town, although there was a jagun stationed in a camp at the north end of the town. I asked around and got directions to my cousin George the sword maker’s house. It proved to be an old-style yurt with the unmistakable sounds of a smith coming from the back. I made my way around the yurt and found the smithy. It was a shed made of stone walls with a large opening in the front and an elevated roof made of logs and thatch. I wondered that the roof didn’t catch on fire with all the fire and sparks coming from the smithy. A short, broad man was working with his back to me. I turned aside to the corral, situated a safe distance from the smithy, and added my horses to the others. I then approached the smith.

“Are you George, the smith?” I asked the broad back.
“I am,” he replied without turning around or missing a stroke.
“I am your cousin, Karl, the Crow. My brother Theodore suggested I look you up.”

“Well, let’s have a look at you.” He stopped and turned to look me over. “You don’t look much like your brother or your father, for that matter, but you could be no one else. Welcome, and congratulations on your recent marriage. I’ll be with you as soon as I finish this spear.”

He turned back to work on the spear. It was one of the solid iron ones used to hunt the great bears. I wondered if I would need one of those on my trip. I asked him how he had heard of my marriage. Of course, Theodore had told him. George appeared to be well over forty and looked more like an Anishinabe than anything else. I imagined that his mother was probably one since there had been a fair colony of them in the old Hawk Ordu ever since the days of Odinigun. In due course, George finished the spear and put it in the water barrel to cool. He then led me around to the front of his yurt and through the door. He introduced me to his wife, Ba-ahnoce, an Inuna-ina. She greeted me warmly and drew us each a bath. While we were bathing she washed the clothes we removed and set us out fresh things. I helped George dump the bathwater when we finished and Ba-ahnoce set out a big meal for us. All this time we had been chatting amiably about family. It seemed that Carlotta and I were just about the only members of my family he had not yet met. He proved to be the great-grandson of my grandfather’s brother Henry. His mother and grandmother were both Anishinabe, so it was no wonder he looked like one. His grandmother was the daughter of the legendary Odinigun. After dinner we sat down by the fire.

“It would seem you have quite a trip ahead of you, Cousin,” he began.
“Yes, I do. Do you have any advice?”

“Oh, I can give you more than just advice. First of all, you must go on to Sharbalikh, the town on the site of the old Ox Ordu. There you will ask for Atot’ain, the smith. He will tell you how to proceed. Also, here is a bag of dried fruit, mostly berries; you must eat some each day in the winter. Dried meat and raw fish will not keep you healthy. Meanwhile I have just finished the iron spear you will need.”

“Are there great bears in the north country?”
“In the west, in the mountains, but there is an even larger bear in the north, the white bear.” “Larger than the great bear?”
“I’m not sure if he weighs more, but he is longer, or taller if standing.”
“I’m not looking forward to making his acquaintance.”

“Indeed! But it is best to be prepared, so I have made you an extra long spear. It is important to keep the bears claws well away from you should you encounter one. Whatever you do, never cook meat out in the open; it will bring them right to you. Of course, they sleep through the winter, so it is unlikely you will see one until the spring.”

“I have yet to see one of the great bears. I’m used to the small ones.”
“If you are lucky, you won’t see one, but as long as you are traveling with horses it is likely you will.” “Do you suggest I go on foot?”
“No, of course not. In time you will have to switch to dogs.”
“I remember my grandfather writing most unfondly of dogsleds.”

“They are obnoxious brutes, but essential in the North Country. Don’t worry about it; you will be shown how it is done in time.”

 

“I must admit to feeling like a child being protected by all my relatives. Is all this really necessary?”

“Had you chosen to campaign in the Green Mist, you would be left to your own devices. After all, you have proven yourself as a skilled warrior and can take care of yourself in battle. As it is, you are not exactly being hand carried to your destination; you are only being assisted to make sure you have a chance. When Theodore catches up with you again, he will explain everything. Until then, enjoy what comfort you can along the way. On some of your trip you will likely be alone and protected only by your own wits. In any case, nothing you have done so far will have prepared you for what lies ahead. May our God guide your steps and may Kababonkaug-g show you mercy.”

“Kababonkaug-g?”
“The winter sky, the north.”
“Thank you.”

The next morning, I set out at first light as usual after thanking my hosts for all their hospitality and especially for the fruit and the spear. The latter was longer than I was tall, more of a lance than a spear. I decided I had better get some practice with it along the way. The road to Sharbalikh ran just a little north of west. I was again held up by a blizzard along this leg and it took ten days instead of seven. While I was held up, the keeper of the yam, an old Siksika who had hunted the great bear, happily showed me how to handle the iron spear. I felt much more confident with it after his instruction. I reached Sharbalikh in the late afternoon. It was a small town with no military presence at all. I got directions to Atot’ain’s house. It was on the eastern edge of the town and proved to be one of the conical hide tents with a stone smithy (much like cousin George’s) in the rear and a corral on one side. The smithy was idle, so I put up the horses and approached the tent. Just as I was about to call out, the flap opened and a short, squat young man with a huge welcoming smile urged me inside.

“You must be the Crow.” He clapped me on the back. “Welcome to my home. I was beginning to worry about you.”

“I was held up by a storm for a few days,” I explained.
“No matter, there is still plenty of time. Everything is ready. We leave tomorrow.”
“You are coming with me?”

“Yes, but never mind that now. This is my wife, Wunoantome, and my two boys, Patadal and Dohasan. Come, you must want a bath, like your brother always does.”

Wunoantome, a short slim woman with a sweet smile began to heat some water while the two boys (ages six and four) excitedly followed me around. I managed a bath in spite of the boys’ help and changed into fresh clothes. Wunoantome washed my clothes while Atot’ain and I got rid of the bathwater. We then sat by the fire to chat and Wunoantome finished up my clothes and began dinner. The boys sat at our feet hanging on every word.
“Curious habit your family has with all that bathing in warm water. I think cold water is best. I’m afraid it will be some time before you get another warm bath.”

“I lived among the Ani’ Yun’-wiya; I am quite used to baths in cold rivers also. Where are we going?” “North to the Khanate River, of course. There is a small settlement there called Kuriltaibalikh that I visit each winter and summer to do their blacksmithing. I have been waiting for your arrival to go.”

“How far is it?”
“It is just about fifteen hundred li. It will take us about twenty-six or seven days by dogsled.”

“Fifteen hundred li by dogsled? You travel fifteen hundred li in the middle of the winter? Are there no settlements in between? In any case, I’m afraid I don’t even know how to handle a dogsled.”

“Well, that’s a few questions. Let’s see, yes I do travel fifteen hundred li each way every winter and summer, but only in the winter by dogsled.” The boys thought that remark was uproariously funny. “There are a few settlements in between, but I don’t stop at them in the winter, only in the summer, and don’t worry about the dogs, you won’t have to handle them, I will.”

“I didn’t notice any dogs around. Where do you keep them?”

 

“I don’t. We’ll just push the sled over to where the dogs are kept. They belong to a Kensistenoug named Sakcewescam. He lives to the north of the town.”

 

“I understand the dogs can be hard to control.”

 

“Only if they think you don’t know what you’re doing. By the time we reach the settlement, you’ll be an expert.”

 

“Why is the town called Kuriltaibalikh?”

“Actually, that’s a frontier joke. You remember, of course, that a kuriltai is the Mongol word for the assemblage that met to choose the successor to the Khan in the old land. Well, since the only time there was such an assemblage in the new land was on the site of that town, they have come to call themselves that.”

“Has the Khakhan missed the sarcasm?”

 

“I doubt if he even knows where the place is. Of course, officially the locals would insist that they are merely honoring the ‘first’ kuriltai.”

 

“There must be some old Mongols living there.”

“It was founded by a small group of them after Kaidu died, officially to trade with the northern tribes, but actually, to get away from Kuyuk. Today it is mostly populated by Kensistenoug, some Siksika and perhaps a few Tinneh.”

“I have Siksika relatives. One of my uncles was Siksika.”
“That will hold you in good stead among them; they are quite clannish I find.”

Somehow I felt he was being just a bit sanguine about my learning to control the dogsled in that time, but dinner was being served so we turned our attention to that and chatted amiably about the usual banalities. I did manage to ask how he came to know my brother. As I might have expected, Theodore had saved his life many years before while he was on his way to campaign in the Green Mist. He also knew George, who had trained him to be a smith. He also mentioned meeting some of my relatives on my mother’s side. There he had the advantage over me, since I never had. It made me wonder why they never visited us in Cuauhnahuac. Well, they mostly lived on the northwest coast, and it was quite a trip, but you would think they would have gone to visit once. Maybe they had when I was too young to remember and no one had ever mentioned it. Perhaps they didn’t much like my father. While everyone respected or even revered him, I often wondered (when I was young) if anyone actually liked him.
After dinner we put my things on the sled and turned in early. The next morning, we rose before dawn, ate quickly, and together pushed the sled over to Sakcewescam’s compound. It was easy to find; one only needed to follow the sound of the barking. He was situated in a wide hollow, well north of the town. The hollow muffled the barking somewhat for the town. He must have had at least a hundred dogs in his compound and he was busily feeding the snarling brutes as we came up.

“Ah, Atot’ain,” he greeted us. “You’re finally ready to go north?”
“Yes, it is time,” he replied. “This is the Crow, brother of the great healer, Theodore.”
“An honor, sir.” He bowed formally. “It is a pleasure to serve you today. I will select the best team for you.”

“You are most kind,” I replied. I decided I didn’t want to hear why he was grateful to my brother. I think it was about this time that I decided that my brother’s life story would be far more interesting than mine or that of anyone else in the family, and when next we met, I urged him to write it down, but he just laughed. I suppose one would be able to get more information out of a corpse than out of Theodore. I keep hoping that one day a manuscript of his memoirs will turn up somewhere.

Sakcewescam manhandled a team into harnesses for us, pausing every so often to break up a fight among them. He assured us that once they started running they would stop fighting. We paid him and attached the team to our sled. Atot’ain broke up a few more fights and we started off. We alternately rode on the back runners of the sled and ran alongside holding on to the handholds on either side. The running was necessary to keep warm and the riding to rest between runs. When we wanted to stop, we turned the sled on its side. There was little opportunity to talk while we either rode or ran since the wind would snatch away any words we tried to shout. This left me with time to think once I knew what I was doing with the sled. My thoughts always returned to Carlotta, and our magical time together. It lifted my spirits rather than depressed me; for I was certain that somehow we would be together again soon.

The road was not easy to follow, if indeed there was one, but Atot’ain seemed to know exactly where he was going and showed me how he aimed the sled each night by the stars, when we camped, and went in that direction in the morning. I doubted if such steering could be that accurate, but we eventually came right upon the town near midday on the thirtieth day. It was a very small settlement, belying the suffix -balikh. There were a few dozen of the conical hide tents scattered in a ragged line along a hill just across the Khanate River from us, with a single yurt in their midst. We shot over the frozen river, up the far bank and on to the settlement. We turned aside to the western edge of tents and stopped at one near the end. Atot’ain released the dogs from the sled and tied them to a stake still harnessed together. We fed them and I had to admit he was right about my learning how to handle the sled, I felt quite competent with it.

Once the dogs were taken care of, we pushed the sled to the rear of the tent where there was a very snowbound smithy. It was also made of stone with an elevated thatch roof, but it took a while to dig the snow out of it. He then filled the furnace with wood and some of the coal he had brought along and set out his tools. Once all was ready for the next day, he led the way into the tent.

“Is our host here?” I asked him.

 

“Oh no, Kiskap is probably checking his traps. He should be back by nightfall. We’ll surprise him by fixing the evening meal.”

 

“He has no wife?”

 

“No, Ksakwi Ahki died a few years ago. This is a hard place to live, you know. I thought perhaps he would find another wife, but I guess he hasn’t.”

 

“Did they have any children?”

 

“Yes, two girls and a boy. The boy is on campaign in the Green Mist; the girls are married and living with their husbands’ bands.”

“He must enjoy having the company when you visit.”
“He has always made me welcome.”

By evening, Atot’ain had a fragrant stew in a pot on the hearth. Just before dark, the dogs began barking incessantly setting off responses from the neighboring packs including one that was obviously getting closer. Atot’ain began serving up the stew and after a furious exchange of barks and some maneuvering outside, the flap of the tent flew open and a tall man of perhaps fifty years dressed in furs covered with ice crystals strode into the tent. He grabbed Atot’ain by the arms and lifted him into the air and set him down again.

“My old friend, you are finally here!” he shouted. And turning to me, “This must be my young cousin.” “Are you related to my uncle, Seagull?” I asked.

“Yes.” He nodded sadly. “He was my father’s brother. It was a tragic story. You know, songs have been sung about it.”

“Really?”
“Yes. I’ll sing you one after dinner. Atot’ain you are most kind to fix such a splendid feast.” “My pleasure, my friend.”

After dinner, true to his word, Kiskap sang us the song about Seagull. It was quite a long song and there is no greater folly than trying to translate poetry, but the gist of the song was: One day Napi (literally “Old Man,” the Siksika Creator God) looked down on his people (the Siksika) who were struggling to survive on the plains. He decided to send them help and called up the Eagle Clan from a land far away to bring them ponokamita (literally “Elk-dog,” the horse). This changed everything for the people and they joined the Eagle Clan and became a great people. Among the people was a young man named Apuni (“Butterfly,” apparently an earlier name of Seagull), who flitted about the plains until he came to the great mountains in the west. He fluttered up through the mountains until he reached a great lake of saltwater where he was turned into a Seagull. Seagull then flew east into the land of the steaming waters where he found the family of the Great Raven who had fled the unjust wrath of the new head of the Eagle Clan. He joined the Raven Clan and flew west with them to the Great Sea. They escaped the Eagle, settled in a small valley, and flourished. He married the beautiful daughter of the Raven and had five children. But a fever attacked the people and Napi called the Raven back to the Eagle Clan to save the people. While he was away, a pack of wild dogs attacked his clan. Led by Seagull, the ravens fought bravely and finally drove the dogs off, but they were all wounded and the fever found them and took four of them including the great warrior Seagull. Unable to live without him, the daughter of the Raven soon joined him and now they hunt with Napi in the special hunting ground reserved for those who love each other more than life.

I decided not to correct the errors in the song, but instead praised it. Actually, the melody was rather repetitious but Kiskap had a strong, deep voice and the overall effect of the song was haunting. I did ask him if his family blamed my grandfather for the fate of Seagull. He assured me that they did not. They had only the greatest reverence for the Raven. They were also very pleased when he sent the children of Seagull to them for a few years. I hadn’t thought much of my Siksika cousins since they were all so much older than me, but I decided to find out about them now.

“Well, let’s see,” he began. “The eldest was a daughter named Christina. We called her Ksistuk Ahki (Beaver Woman) because she loved to swim. She was a beautiful woman, tall and graceful. She married a Dzitsiista named Miahtose and moved down to the south near the Pelican Ordu. She died about seven years ago. He died soon after, but their two children still live. Their names are Oomi and Mathilde. I think they have also made their homes in the south. The next child was also a daughter, Miriam. We called her Piksi (Bird) for she was like a little bird flying around. She was small and slight of build but full of energy. She married a fine boy from a neighboring band named Ahwotan. He died on campaign and she died in childbirth. The child was also lost. The women felt she was too small to have a child. Perhaps they were right. The third child was Henry. We called him Itska (Danger) because he was such a fearless child. He died on his spirit quest fighting a great bear. He only had a knife, but he and the bear killed each other. He would have been a great warrior had he lived. There are songs about him also. The fourth child was also a boy, Leo. We called him Ahwahpitsi (Lonely) after his brother died for he was devastated by the loss and kept to himself. When he was about seventeen, he rode off toward the north and never returned. I rather hoped I would run into him up here one day, but I never have. I don’t know what became of him. The youngest child was a daughter, Sarah. We called her Ksiskum (Spring), because she was like a flower of spring, beautiful, sweet, light and airy. We all loved her like she was our own child. And she loved us all. She was the only person who could talk to Ahwahpitsi. I believe he always loved her, if no one else. She married a tall handsome Wazhazhe named Mitzoxhi, who she met while visiting Murenbalikh. They have four children, Mitsiushi, Tciju, Miriam and Ugasho’n and still live in the east near the Wazhazhe River.”

“I had no idea I had relatives among the Wazhazhe. I guess they never came down to visit us at Cuauhnahuac.” “If I may be frank, after your grandfather died, there was nothing to draw them back there.” “My parents were rather poor company, but my sisters and my brother Theodore were wonderful.”

“Yes, but they have come to us over the years. There was no need for us to go all the way to Cuauhnahuac to visit them.”

“Did my sister Mathilde visit you when she was with her Salst relatives?”
“Yes, she did. They are fine people, the Salst. Have you met them?”
“No, my father sent me to stay with his first wife’s people, the Ani’ Yun’-wiya.”

“Also a fine people. It is good you are finally getting around to visiting your other relatives. Unfortunately, you must make this visit a short one. Your brother tells me you must be out of the Khakhanate by spring. So you will have to go in a few days. That is, of course, if Klah arrives in time.”

“Klah?”
“Yes. He is a Thilanottine and will make sure you get safely out of the Khanate before spring.” “Just where does the Khanate end?”

“Officially, it takes up all the land in the north, but practically, it ends about halfway into the Tinneh lands. They are sort of loosely allied to the Khanate, but no one presses the issue. If they need help, they can come get it, but there are no patrols by Khanate soldiers and, in fact, the Tinneh never ask for help, they just come down to trade for iron tools when they need them.”

“Is it far to Tinneh land?”
“We are in Tinneh land. Depending on who you ask, it is either Tsattine or Sekani.”
“I never heard of the latter.”
“They are allies, fine people, both groups.”
“But this man Klah is neither.”
“It is no matter. His tribe is despised by both groups, but he is well known among them as a trader.” “I see. How did you come to live here?”

“Once my youngest daughter was safely married, I wanted a change. I like the cold, so I moved north. I like it here. You live or die by your wits. There is no compromise, no margin for error. It is a good strong life. My wife liked it also.”

“Don’t you miss your relatives?”

 

“We visit each other in warm weather. Although I surprised them early one winter a couple of years ago. I brought a big elk I had hunted down, so I was quite welcome.”

The next day, I hitched up the dogs to the sled and took them for a good run along the riverbank to make sure I could handle them. Meanwhile, Atot’ain fired up his furnace and set to work in the smithy, and Kiskap took care of his trap harvest of the previous day. When I returned, there were still a few people lined up to get their various weapons sharpened or repaired and Atot’ain was hard at work. Kiskap had finished his skins and was fixing dinner in the tent. I joined him after I tied up the dogs and he welcomed me warmly asking if I had noticed the snow softening up. I hadn’t, but he assured me spring was quite close now and he hoped Klah was almost here.

By nightfall Atot’ain had taken his cold bath and joined us for supper. He expressed surprise that there had been so much work for him this time. Kiskap told him that the locals traded in the area for damaged weapons, then traded back the repaired ones at a premium. Atot’ain was impressed that they were so enterprising. He expected to be busy for a few more days.

The next morning, Kiskap went out early to check his traps and Atot’ain went back to the smithy. I decided to wander about the village a bit. The locals were definitely a mixed lot as Atot’ain had said they would be, but I was intrigued by the lone yurt and decided to investigate. It was on the crest of a small hill just about exactly in the center of the ragged line of tents. I called out and the flap opened to reveal what looked very much like an ancient Mongol. He invited me in asking if I was a descendant of the Immortal Raven. I admitted being his grandson, and he marveled that he had a grandson as young as me. (It is amazing how often I hear that.) He identified himself as Abaka, the more or less head of Kuriltaibalikh. I asked if he was descended from the founders of the town. He acknowledged that he was the son of one of the founders, Munguk.

“I have received orders from the Khakhan to kill you if you are still here in the spring. But, of course, I don’t take orders from him, or anyone else. You may stay here as long as you like.”

I thanked him, but assured him I would be leaving in a few days. He shrugged and wished me a safe journey. He seemed to almost regret not getting the opportunity to disobey his “orders” from the Khakhan. We had a nice visit while he reminisced about old times and heaped praise on my grandfather and the great Kaidu. I returned to Kiskap’s tent in midafternoon, went in and began preparing the evening meal. All was stewing away when I heard the dogs barking. Thinking Kiskap had returned early, I went out to check, but it was a much shorter man, older than me but younger than Kiskap, meanly dressed and sporting a straggly beard covered with frost, approaching on a dogsled. He pulled up to the tent tied up his dogs and greeted me warmly.

“You must be young Crow. I am Klah. Is Kiskap here?”
“No, he is still out checking his traps. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“And I, you. Is there something I can feed these ravenous dogs, before they start eating each other?” “Yes, the trap meat is stored in that box.”
“Excellent!”

He opened the box and threw his team what looked like a skinned beaver. They set on it savagely biting each other as much as the meat from the look of it. I invited him in the tent and apologized that the stew wasn’t ready yet. He laughed and told me he never ate cooked meat. He pulled a nasty-looking piece of fat with skin on one side and cut off a bit and popped it into his mouth eating it with much relish. He then thoughtfully offered me the next cut, but I politely refused, and he popped that one into his mouth. He then put the vile thing back in his bag so he could eat when the rest of us did. Kiskap arrived soon and after securing and feeding the dogs came in and raised Klah off the ground in greeting while the latter laughed uproariously. Soon Atot’ain came in and he and Klah clapped each other on the back. When he noticed I had made dinner, Kiskap raised me off the ground—easily to my surprise. Then we all sat down to eat. Klah refusing even a taste of my stew but offering everyone a cut off his disgusting repast. Only Atot’ain accepted a small bit and he seemed to enjoy it. When dinner was finished, Klah turned to me.

“Well, young Crow, we should really leave tomorrow, but I have some knives for Atot’ain to repair, so we will have to leave the next day. We will be chased by spring all the way to the mountains.”

“The mountains?”
“Of course. Your brother wants me to take you to a certain path that will lead you through the mountains. There you must continue on alone to the sea. You will be met at the end of the path by a relative of yours. I don’t know his name, but he will recognize you so it won’t matter.”

“It is strange, but I had a dream almost a year ago on the sacred hill of the Pansfalaya. In it I flew up to the north and a man who looked something like you pointed me to the west and I flew across the land and over the mountains to the sea where a wooden pole carved with faces was stuck into the ground. The one on top was a raven and it said to me, ‘Welcome home, my son.’ ”

“I didn’t know you were a shaman.”
“I’m not, but sometimes my spirit guide sends me dreams.”
“I have never been over the mountains, so I don’t know what you will find there.”

“There are people along the coast,” Kiskap said, “who carve poles in the way you describe. I saw some of them when I was with the Salmon Ordu many years ago. They are very tall poles—tree trunks, actually. The people are a handsome, friendly lot and live in fine plank houses.”

“You know the houses in the village in my dream were also plank houses, very large, unlike any I had seen before. But I saw no people in my dream.”

 

“It would appear your dream will come true,” Klah added. “It is a good sign that you will make it over the mountains. I am much relieved to hear that, for it is not an easy path.”

It seemed I would get an adventure out of this trek after all. I had no fear of mountains, but I had heard that those in the far west were much higher and more dangerous than those I was used to in the east. Although I doubted they could be any higher than those I climbed in the Khanate of the Clouds. Still, spring was a dangerous time to be in the mountains because thawing could touch off avalanches, especially in passes. This might be quite a challenge.

23
“Home,” 98 K
(AB, BC, AK, 1466)

The next day I helped Kiskap dress the furs he had trapped the day before while Klah got his knives repaired and sharpened by Atot’ain. Around midday, Klah’s knives were finished and he checked out his sled and his dogs’ harnesses carefully before loading up the sled. He had me come with him and we took a quick run around the town to make sure all was well and to see what the snow cover was like. By the time we returned, he was reassured by what he had seen. All the equipment was in good shape and the snow was still not melting. Actually, I thought any signs of spring had to be in one’s imagination around here, but my three companions were quite sure it would soon arrive. We packed my things on the sled. I had thoughtfully brought along a fair amount of dried ox meat. Klah also strongly recommended that I not cook any meat while on the journey. I decided I could probably use some more dried meat and asked Kiskap if any could be secured in the village. He directed me to a tent near his where meat could be bought.

I called out as I approached the tent and the flap opened to reveal a small, slender man, probably mostly Kensistenoug from the look of him. He invited me in and I asked if he had any dried meat to sell. He said he did, but wasn’t sure if I would want it. He brought out four bags of dried meat strips. He was fairly certain one bag was mostly elk, moos or deer, but he couldn’t be absolutely sure. Another bag was definitely none of those, but whatever he had trapped that last year. Another was dried fish from the lake to the north and from the river. A fourth held whatever hadn’t fit in the other bags. I decided on the first and third bags and we settled on a rather high price after some spirited bargaining.

I added the meat to the sled and joined the others inside. All three cautioned me again not to cook any meat or even stew the dried meat while I was in the wild, especially once spring was in the air. If I decided to catch any fresh meat or fish I must eat it raw. I rather hoped I had secured enough dried meat for the trip. We all turned in right after dinner and rose early the next morning. We ate some leftover dinner and soon all of us were out getting the dogs hitched up to the sleds. By first light we were ready to go. I got a big bear hug from Kiskap and a hard clap on the back from Atot’ain. Both wished me luck on my journey and hoped they would see me again one day. I thanked them for all their help and echoed the hope we would meet again. With one last check of all the gear, Klah and I headed west, Kiskap headed north, and Atot’ain headed to the smithy.

We followed the Khanate River upstream west for most of the first day, until it turned south; then we continued west and slightly north, keeping the mountains to our southwest. We continued in this direction for the next six days. Each night we would camp where we could see a bit of shelter, usually behind (south of) a hill. The weather was fairly clear, but quite cold with a steady wind blowing out of the north. The ground was quite hard and completely snow covered, but Klah still insisted that spring was at hand. On the third day we came upon a small village and we visited it so Klah could trade. I could really see no difference between him and them, and their languages were mutually comprehensible, but they seemed to have a thinly veiled contempt for Klah, and I was suspect since I was in his company. Once the trading was done, we did not even entertain the thought of spending the night, but pressed on. The villagers’ homes were not particularly inviting, in any case. They lived in double lean-tos covered with hides from which an unsavory odor emanated boldly even through the sensedulling cold. There was one impressive-looking structure in the village, but Klah told me it was for storing food—no one actually lived in it.

After the sixth day, we turned sharply northwest keeping our path just beyond the foothills of some impressive mountains that were still in the distance. Klah told me that we would soon be in the lands of the Nahani who would be a little friendlier. First, however, we had to endure two more Sekani villages, which, if possible, were even meaner looking than the first and marginally more hostile. I didn’t really know why Klah would want to trade with them, but I didn’t think I should ask him.

On the seventh day of the northwest tack, we crossed a large frozen river and turned due north for the next four days. I noticed Klah made a point not to stop at a large village on the bank of the river not far from where we crossed it. I also noticed that the river, while still frozen, appeared to have a thin layer of water over the ice. Perhaps spring was finally on its way. This northward track was not an easy one. The terrain under the snow pack was quite rough and made for a bumpy ride. More than once the sled turned over by itself and sent us both on a graceless tumble. We then had to check the sled for damage and break up the endless fights among the dogs before picking another path. We often used the frozen rivers as paths, but even here we would occasionally hit a protruding rock and turn over. During one such spill I came very close to dashing my head against a rock. At the last moment I managed to twist enough so that my shoulder took most of the hit. It wasn’t broken, but it was certainly sore for a few days. I was glad the cold helped numb it a bit. Unfortunately, the need for constant vigilance severely curtailed my daydreaming, but my nights were still free and I went to sleep every night and awakened every morning thinking of Carlotta.

On the fourth day we turned sharply west for day or so, then turned north of northwest. Again we followed frozen rivers most of the way and on the whole it was still better than the rough terrain, but we nevertheless managed the occasional spill. On the third day, we turned more to the northwest for a day and came to a medium-sized village near a large river. This village was as mean as the others, but the people, while indistinguishable from their neighbors to me, were much more friendly and insisted we accept their hospitality for the night. Fortunately, the nose quickly adjusts to almost any outrage. I think the smell was from packed unwashed bodies. We were fed smoked fish and everyone took turns telling stories. These were mostly about their hunting prowess. I decided to tell the story of my cousin Henry and his tragic fight with the great bear. They were very impressed by the tale. Especially since Klah confirmed the tale as being completely true. Klah’s story was about a whale hunt and also greatly impressed our hosts.

The next day we left the village at first light. We went down to the river and turned upstream. It was covered with refrozen slush. I noticed the wind had changed directions and was now coming from the west over or through the mountains, but was still quite cold. During our first day on the river, we would alternately find patches of water and refrozen slush, but the ice was still quite thick enough to hold us. Before long, however, we had to abandon the river for the south bank because of roughness. It looked like there were frozen rapids or small waterfalls along a large stretch of the river. The south bank was fairly smooth and the travel much easier than we had had in a while.
On the third day after leaving the village, we veered away from the river which turned northwest and continued due west, past a large hill which stuck out in the now rather broad river valley. Just around this hill was another village, somewhat smaller than the last. Again we stopped and were pressed to spend the night. We both shamelessly told the same stories again with a bit more embellishment. This time after the stories there was some dancing performed. The dancers used masks to represent the various characters of their myths, which had inspired the dances. I noticed they did quite a bit of the quillwork to decorate their clothing, much as did the people in the south.

The following morning we left at first light as usual and continued due west all day. We camped for the night and the next morning were treated to a blizzard just as we were about to get under way. The wind was still blowing from the west, so we banked up a snow wall in that direction and hunkered down with the dogs to wait it out. It continued raging for two days. Then on the third day, the sun came out and it grew almost warm. The new snow was actually starting to melt. We quickly got ourselves together and set out toward a bit south of west for most of the day before turning due south along a river. I noticed that this river was beginning to thaw and small rivulets were flowing around the ice. Just before dusk we came upon a small village. We were again pressed to spend the night and tell stories. This time we both came up with new stories. Klah told about an encounter he had with one of the white bears. I told the Ani’ Yun’-wiya story about the Stone Man (Nun Yunu wi) who had been overcome by an unusual stratagem and gave up all his secrets as he lay dying. They loved both stories.

The next morning Klah did some trading and came back with what looked like two pieces of sapling wood each about eight feet long. He lashed them together at one end making what looked like a primitive travois out of it. He then got my things out of the sled and tied them down on the travois. Then he asked me to try it out. I obliged and found it rather awkward, but tolerable. He then explained.

“It is time for us to part company, Crow. You must continue on foot. This travois will make it easier to carry your things than piling them on your back. When you no longer need it, you can simply discard it along the way. I have not gone on this path, but this is what I have been told. You must follow this river to its source, a long narrow lake. Beyond the lake you will find another river that flows toward the southwest. Follow it until it empties into a larger river. Follow the larger river to the sea. It should take you five or six days to reach the lake, two more days to pass the lake and reach the other river, two or three days to reach the last river. This first river tends toward the southwest. Be careful not to turn aside and follow the smaller rivers flowing into it. If you do not come upon the long lake, you have made a wrong turn. You will find things are thawing as you go along and as you near the sea it will be quite warm. Remember a relative will be waiting for you near the sea. Otherwise, there should be no villages along this path. Any questions?”

“Has anyone in this village walked along this path?”
“Yes a few of them have gone as far as the lake.”
“Well, let me draw a little map from your directions and perhaps they can help me with it.” “Most shrewd, Crow. I’ll go get one of them.”

While he was gone, I got out a piece of hide and made some charcoal ink to write with. I sketched out the village at one edge of the map and placed the long lake about six days’ distance to the southwest and attached the two points with a line marking the river. Klah arrived with a few of the locals who were all eager to help. It took a while before the rather abstract idea of the map became comprehensible to them, but once they understood, they were eager to fill in the blanks. First they insisted that the lake was longer than I had it; then they began to point out where the tributaries joined the main river. It would seem I would run into no less than seven the first day, where the river flowed north. Then there would be another twelve or thirteen the rest of the way to the lake, six or seven from the south and six from the north. They also corrected the flow of the river for me where it varied slightly from its northeasterly flow. So armed, I felt much more confident of finding my way to the lake. Klah clapped me on the back in approval and assured me my brother would be very proud of me. Since it was already past midday, we decided to spend another day with our hosts, much to their delight. They also entertained us with some of the mask dances that night and then turned to storytelling. Since they all told new stories, we had to do likewise. Klah told of another memorable fight with the great white bear, but this one had occurred to a relative of his. I decided to return to my Siksika relatives and told about Leo and his reaction to the death of his brother. I gave him a few fictional adventures before he disappeared, mostly avenging himself on great bears. I ended by suggesting he still roams the mountains hunting the bears without mercy and if they come across him they will know him by the scores of bear claw necklaces he wears. They then told me that they had heard of such a man. He wears only bearskins and lives alone in the mountains to the south. He was thought to be mad. They were glad to hear how he came to be this way. I rather hoped he was not the relative I was to meet.

The next morning Klah and I embraced and he turned his dogsled north while I pulled my travois south. The river was not completely thawed, but was too dangerous to cross. It was swollen with meltwater and debris from the winter along with chunks of ice that swirled around in it menacingly. The snow along the shore was softening, but no ground was yet visible. The small rivers flowing into the main one were not as dangerous to cross, but all required a bit of a detour upstream to find a still-frozen patch and, yes, I misjudged the strength of the ice more than once. Fortunately I was wearing waterproof pants made from walrus hide (I think), the same kind that the Inuit wore (I had picked up a pair in Khanbalikh). They did not fit, of course, but they did keep me dry when I had to cross rivers. By the end of that first day, I had crossed five of the tributaries on the east side of the main river and the last of them was quite the largest and required a long detour to cross.

Actually I waited until the next morning to race across the last one, when the ice would be most likely to hold. It did. I continued south alongside the river most of the next day, crossing a small stream and turning west about midafternoon. The river seemed to be flooding out of its banks a little, so I stayed up near the trees. These were mostly pines near the river, but I could see hemlocks farther up the mountains. The trees were not dense or tangled, but fairly open and passable. I was glad to see the trees, since they made it less likely that I would encounter an avalanche along the way. Some shrubs were visible in between the trees, but they were not dense either. There were still no signs of flowers. The days were almost mild, but the nights remained quite cold, refreezing any slush from the day’s melt.

On the second and third days, I had to cross two more significant tributaries. In both cases I had to detour well upstream to find a shallow enough spot to cross. The rest of the streams were not that much of a challenge and on the sixth day I arrived at the lake. It had to be over sixty li long and as much as three li wide. It was thawed, but there were still chunks of ice floating in it. There were only a few small streams emptying into it on my side (east). I arrived at the far end of the lake on the eighth day. There was a small stream flowing into the far end and as it was late in the day and it had been rather warm I decided to hurl caution to the winds and take a muchneeded bath in the stream.

The water was so cold when I plunged in that I had to gasp to breathe. I rubbed myself frantically to effect the bath, then jumped out and dried myself quickly and put on some fresh clothes. I then built up a fire and washed and dried my clothes. I was done at dusk, but remembering all the advice I had received, I dared not cook any food, but merely ate my dried meat and a handful of the dried fruit. I slept with my bear spear clutched tightly in my hand.

The next morning I woke up with a start and found a man sitting by my fire, which he had stoked up, and staring at me with no expression at all. He was a little older than me and dressed in bear skins, with a very dense bear claw necklace. He was clearly too young to be my legendary cousin Leo. Were he alive he would be well over sixty. I rose up and looked around. He was alone. He had a bow and a quiver of arrows on his back, a knife on his belt, and one of the long bear spears on the ground by his side, but he held no weapon in his hand. I laid down my bear spear and greeted him. He grunted and pointed over to his left. I walked over there and behind a screen of trees was a very dead bear, the largest I had ever seen. I returned to my guest.

“You killed that bear?”

 

“Yes.” He spoke Mongol, but his accent was atrocious. “You were lucky I was following him. Only a fool doesn’t tie his food up in a tree overnight.”

“I didn’t know that. I am new to these parts.”
“Obviously. I know all the tribes around here. None look like you.”
“I come from Anahuac, I am called the Crow. Who are you?”
“I am called ‘Enri. I was born a little to the east and south of here.”
“Was your father called Leo?”
“You knew my father?”
“He is my cousin, son of my father’s sister.”
“We are related?”
“Yes. I am honored to meet you. Your Siksika relatives would be happy to meet you also.” “My father was Siksika?”
“His father was Siksika; his mother was like me, pale. We are from a people far to the west, beyond the sea.”

“My father never spoke of his people to me. I only came to live with him when my mother died. She was Sekani.”

“I see you were named for your father’s brother.”
“Yes. He told me that the great bear was my mortal enemy and I must kill all I see.”

“Your uncle Henry was killed in a fight with one of the great bears when he was a boy. He was very brave and fought the bear with a knife rather than the spear. He also killed the bear, so he avenged himself. I don’t think you should consider the bear your enemy.”

“My father made me promise to carry on his war, after he died.”
“I see. How did he die?”

“We were following a bear three summers ago. We were in the mountains southeast of here. He tripped on a loose stone and fell down the side of the mountain. When I reached him, he was just barely alive. He made me promise to carry on his war. It is fortunate for you I am.”

“We were raised to respect the lives of animals and only kill them when necessary for food or in self-defense. While your war has saved me, it is not a good thing. It is like wiping out a whole tribe because one of its members offended you. I would urge you to give up your father’s war and live your own life. Go visit your Siksika relatives. One of them lives in Kuriltaibalikh to the east. He told me he has always hoped he would see your father again.”

“I think you mean well, but you cannot ask me to break faith with my father.”
“As you wish, but ask your spirit guide about it and follow his advice.”

“I will do so, Cousin. I have heard of Kuriltaibalikh; it is far to the east. I hear one can get knives repaired there in the summer.”

 

“It is true. The smith comes to visit our kinsman, Kiskap, in the summer and in the winter. I went there with him.”

 

“Kiskap; I will remember that name in case I go. Meanwhile, good luck on your journey and remember, your food must be up a tree at night.”

 

“Good luck to you also, Cousin. I will follow your advice. It was wonderful meeting you, and I hope we meet again.”

“If you stay in these mountains, it is possible.”
With that he got up and went over to the bear to skin it. I put together my things (I no longer needed the travois) and set off southward to find the other river. Near midday I came upon it. It was not as big as the first river and seemed to be free of ice, but swollen with meltwater. It flowed west and a little south at this point and seemed to come from the mountains in the southeast. I followed it downstream on its northern bank. The first day I crossed three small streams all fairly shallow and ice-free. Patches of ground were beginning to show through the snow and a few brave plants were poking out of the snow. The days were mild, but the nights were still quite cold. (I remembered to put my food up a tree a discreet distance from where I slept.) The second day, the river turned more to the south, and I crossed another stream. At the end of the day I came upon a bit of a canyon where my river joined a much larger one. I decided to stay above the canyon for the night at least.

The following morning, I wandered a bit toward the west and found another river that dropped precipitously down into another canyon very likely to also join the main river. I decided to cross this one up here on the rim if possible. I wandered a bit upstream of this other river and finally found a barely fordable spot. I stayed up on the rim of the canyon and found another small stream that broke through the rim toward the large river. I crossed it fairly easily and continued southwest. The next day, I came upon yet another river, which had carved its own considerable canyon on its way to join the large river. It took the rest of the day to find a fordable spot upstream on the canyon rim for this river. The following day the mountains forced me to walk along the western rim of the river’s canyon almost the whole day until it joined the canyon of the large river. I noticed that there was a huge snowcapped mountain some distance south of the river that reminded me of the mountains of the Khanate of the Clouds. It was quite a sight at sunset.

The next morning I followed the canyon rim of the large river southwest. By the end of the day, I could see that the river was dropping farther away from me and I had best find a way down into the canyon if I ever hoped to meet my relative. I came upon a small creek that seemed to make a passable cut through the canyon wall so I crossed it and waited until morning to make my descent. In the morning I began my descent. The way was steep and rather rough, but did not present a problem. I did notice that as I descended it grew considerably warmer and there were flowers and flower buds everywhere. The large river was still a raging torrent, but I didn’t think I would have to cross it anyway. There was no snow on the ground in the canyon, and the firs began to give way to spruce and hemlock. During the day there was actually a rain shower. The air was humid, but temperate. I came upon a small stream and found the water merely cold, so I cleaned up my clothes and myself and changed out of my winter clothes before continuing on. By the end of the day, I seemed to be in something of a forest along the bank of the river. Just as I was about to look for a place to camp, I noticed a wisp of smoke just a little downstream from me. I went on down to investigate.

I reached the spot at twilight and found a lone man sitting on an overturned boat by a small fire. He was a strange-looking man, very gaunt almost haggard looking. He was at least twenty years older than me. He wore his hair very long and it appeared matted as if it had not been washed in some time. He had a small beard and mustache and wore a strange large almost conical hat made of some sort of painted material (cedar roots, it turned out). His clothes were leather, probably deerskin, but he wore a cloak (made from cedar bark and wool) that was painted with yellow, black and white designs, symbols and faces, and had a long wool fringe hanging from the bottom. There was something oddly familiar about the man, so I stepped out of the trees and approached him.

“At last! The Crow has arrived!” he greeted me.
“Are you the relative I was to meet?”
“Indeed. I am Ganook, brother of Kudeitsaakw.”
“My brother Sealth’s wife. How are they?”
“Well, well indeed, at least at their last visit. They have three fine children now, you know.” “No, I haven’t heard from them since I was a boy. Is Sealth still with the Salmon Ordu?”

“No, he is running a yam in the lands of his people now. They will be coming again to visit this next winter and plan to leave their eldest son with us for a few years.”

 

“Perhaps I can become reacquainted with them and meet the children at last.”

 

“No, that would not be wise, my son. It is best that you see only me while you are here. That way no one needs to lie about seeing you.”

 

“You don’t mind lying?”

 

“No one questions a shaman. We can come and go as we like and stay away as long as we wish. Why do you think your brother asked me to meet you?”

“Is Theodore here?”
“Not yet.”
“I need to warn him that the Khakhan is suspicious of him.”
“The Khakhan is suspicious of everyone. Other than that, he is one of the best we have had in years.”

“Actually, he impressed me favorably, also, but he considers me something of a threat to him. That’s why I’m here.”

“Yes, I know. Have you anything to eat?”
“Yes. I have been eating dried meat and berries, since I was warned not to cook meat.”
“Excellent. I arrived a few days ago, and have been fasting.”
“Why were you fasting?”

“In case you got lost, my guides would show me where you were. As it is, they told me not to worry you would come today.”

 

“Is that why your hair is so…”

 

“Unkempt? No it is the custom of a ‘Lingit shaman never to wash or cut his hair. It was difficult at first, but I have gotten used to it.”

 

“I am sorry, I meant no disrespect.”

“Your honesty is refreshing and not unexpected. Your brother had the nerve to tell me it was unhealthy. I pointed out to him that the spirits talk to me unkempt hair and all rather than to him. Thus while he has to grope about blindly to cure, I am led right to the problem and told what is best for the patient.”

“And sometimes, death is best for the patient.”
“Yes. Your brother would save himself a lot of trouble if he would learn to accept that fact.” “I’m afraid he got that from my father. They are both personally affronted when they lose a patient.”

“You have correctly diagnosed your brother. I have yet to meet your illustrious father. I heard he had been traveling along the coast some years ago, but he never stopped at our village.”

We shared some of my food and chatted a bit more about family. Then I told him about my dream. He was most impressed. It seemed he was planning to take me to an abandoned village that had belonged to his people. It was in some ruin, but he had managed to fix up one of the houses. As it happened, there was a raven carving on top of one of the carved poles. It stood alone near what was the center of the village. I asked why the village had been abandoned. He said it had been wiped out by the Zhen plague about five years ago. The few survivors moved away. It was in an out-of-the-way place, not on the sea, but on a river that flowed into the sea. It was unlikely that anyone would look for me there, since few knew of its existence. Still, it was not far from his village, Stikine, which was on this very river (also called the Stikine), some distance downstream. We would have to pass it on the way to the abandoned village.

The next morning we rose early and ate some more of my food. We then launched Ganook’s boat. It was a large, heavy, dugout affair, rather much for one man to handle, I thought, but he handled it with ease. The river was bloated with meltwater and flowed rather swiftly. We stayed near the north shore, and floated easily, merely steering around rocks and fending off the occasional tree floating down the river with us. There were many large and small islands in the river. There were snowcapped mountains visible on either shore. At dusk we put in to shore and hauled the heavy boat out of the water. I continued to supply the food, but I didn’t mind since I still had plenty.

On the third day we passed a glacier on the north bank, near midday. It had to be about eighteen li wide along the river and filled a valley between two high mountains. It came within a few hundred feet of the Stikine River. I had never seen a glacier before and was amazed at the deep blue color of much of the ice. Not long after passing the glacier, we approached his village, and he had me lie down in the boat so I could not be seen from shore. I could hear people calling to him in greeting from the shore in the ‘Lingit language I had learned long ago. He waved and called back but continued a little farther out in the current than usual. We were soon well out of sight of the village and he had me get up again. I noticed the river turned sharply to a little north of west past his village. We spent that night on a large island in the river and did not light a fire. Ganook felt we were too close to his village to camp on the mainland. Besides, he told me the north shore was too swampy and the south shore was too steep.

Shortly after we left our island the following morning, the river turned to south of west. There were two more glaciers choking valleys on the north shore, the second larger than the first, but neither as large as the one near Ganook’s village. Around midday we steered through some long narrow sandbars to get to a northern channel. About three li downstream, we turned into a narrow channel between a large wooded island and the shore and put into shore at the end of the island. We hauled the boat well up on the shore among the trees. From here we would go on foot.

The land was heavily wooded, mostly spruce and hemlock with the occasional cedar. There was quite an abundance of shrubs (mostly berry bushes), ferns, mosses, flowers, and lichen. The tall trees made it rather gloomy if we strayed away from the open areas near the river and the various streams. We walked north along a creek that emptied into the Stikine River within a few feet of where we hauled out. It soon split into two forks and we followed the east fork. The east bank of the creek was quite steep but the west side was less so. We crossed a small tributary that joined our creek from the east. We camped for the night in a small level area where the creek veered to the west and disappeared into the hills. In the morning we continued north and soon crossed another creek that flowed out of the mountains to the east. We followed it downstream. Although it was heavily wooded, it was quite obvious that the terrain was very steep on both sides of the creek. Another creek joined it from the west not long after we crossed it. Near midday yet another creek joined from the west and soon we arrived at a sandy area leading to the tiny bay where the creek emptied into the sea. There on the east shore of the bay was the large carved pole with the raven on top just as in my dream. And behind it were the dilapidated plank houses.

“Welcome home, my son,” Ganook said with big smile.
24
Exile, 98 K
(South Shore of Leconte Bay, AK, 1466)

I couldn’t help going straight to the pole to look at it. It was badly weathered. Under the raven (which actually looked more like one of the large-billed birds called tupi found in the Khanate of the Clouds) were some other stylized creatures I couldn’t readily identify. Ganook helpfully identified them as (in order under the raven) a wolf, a frog, a shark, an otter, and a bear. I could almost see a resemblance once he identified them. He explained that they represented the family history of the man whose house was behind the pole. He led me to the house he had repaired. The houses were in a single row facing the shore on the east bank of the bay. There was a large sandy area at the end of the bay and the stream emptied into it close to the west side. The bay was almost a li and a half long and less than three hundred feet wide. The house we approached was near the center of the row of houses, a little to the right of the raven pole. It had a very faded painted front. The door was square and above the level of the ground. Inside was a large room, perhaps fifty feet square, completely made of cedar planks. Even the floor and the sunken area in the center were lined with fitted cedar planks. The planks on the walls were tightly overlapped to keep out draughts. There were racks for smoking meat high off the ground around the hearth. The roof turned out to be made of heavy split shingles. There was a smoke hole right over the hearth and windbreaks and shutters protected it. There were nets, traps, fish spears, baskets, cedar bowls, and even snowshoes for my use as well as some blankets, in the sleeping area. Ganook had cannibalized from all the other houses to rebuild this one into a work of art. The house seemed to glow inside. I thanked him for all his help, especially for the incredible house.

“Don’t mention it. I enjoyed working on it.”
“It must have taken quite a while.”
“About a year, I would say.”
“A year! So this was not originally meant for me?”

“I don’t know. The winter before last your brother asked me if I could fix up an out-of-the-way place somewhere in the vicinity of my village. I promised I would, but told him to give me a year or so. I got a note about you only this past midwinter. Perhaps he originally intended it for someone else, he never said, and I wouldn’t have asked. When did you know you would need it?”

“It was near midwinter when I was exiled. He must have sent you the note right away with a dispatch rider for you to receive it so soon. But how could he get the use of a dispatch rider?”

 

“Never underestimate your brother. Anyway, I’m glad you like the house, but of course, you won’t need it much until the fall.”

 

“You don’t live in these houses until fall?”

“Of course not! They are too warm and they are placed for shelter from the winter storms. You will have to stay in summerhouses while you are gathering food for the winter. Tomorrow I’ll show you where they are. I think you will like them also.”

We ate more of my dried meat and berries while he explained how the ‘Lingit use the various things in the house. We spent the night in the restored house. It was still rather cool at night so we were quite comfortable. I dreamt that night of setting up housekeeping with Carlotta that autumn in the wonderful cedar house. The next morning I made up my mind to catch enough food this spring and summer to feed at least two this winter, just in case my dream came true. Before we set off, Ganook presented me with a ‘Lingit hat. It was like his, but unadorned. He explained that it would not be proper for anyone but me to adorn it. He told me that it was made from the roots of the cedar tree. He assured me I would appreciate the hat when it rained, which, I would find, was often. We left for the summerhouses right after breakfast. While crossing the sandy area at the end of the bay, he mentioned I could catch herring and smelt right there on the beach in the spring and summer. We scrambled across the stream below the fork (an excellent spot to catch the oil fish) and followed the western fork upstream. It began to rain, and he was right about the hat. In about an hour we arrived at the first summer “house.” It was a little above the west bank of the western fork near the point where another stream joined it from the west. The “house” was a shack covered with bark. Inside was a thin blanket rolled up on one side and a small table on the other. I wondered how it would survive a summer storm, but he assured me it would. Ganook explained that the summerhouses were placed near hunting and fishing sites. He assured me that this first one was an excellent fishing site. Especially when the salmon came in the summer and early fall.

We moved on to the next shack. This one required a climb up to the source of the stream that joined the western branch. This proved to be a small lake (which also had fish). We then scrambled down the western slope of the mountain toward the sea. Near the bottom of the slope on the bank of another stream was the second shack. Again I would find excellent fishing especially in the spring and summer when the small oil fish came up the stream. It was also near an excellent place to hunt ducks, swans, geese, and cranes in the spring and fall, and the small shore birds all year long, if I was so inclined. The migratory birds landed in droves in the marshes to the west and northwest. Needless to say, I would also catch salmon here.
We moved on to the third shack. This one was about several li south of the second one on another stream near its lake-source. It would also be ideal for the same fish as the second one as well as hunting game around the lake. The final shack required a climb back over the mountain to the stream between two small lakes, which were the sources for the stream that flowed by the second shack. Here I could also find fish, of course, but it was best for hunting. Deer, moos, bear, beaver, raccoon, and rabbit could be easily caught here. Indeed, I was able to get a deer right away. Together we performed the thanking ritual to the deer spirit and I carried the deer over my shoulders back to the house. We got back late in the afternoon and set to work on the deer. Once we had finished butchering it, I worked on the skin, while Ganook prepared some of the meat for our evening meal. I asked about cooking meat and bears, but he assured me that he had power over bears and they would not bother us. I asked if his power extended in any way to me. He admitted it didn’t, but he would place a protective mask to keep away all harm from the winter house. That way I could bring back game and fish here to smoke and store. He would show me how the ‘Lingit smoked meat. Otherwise it would be best to keep my spear nearby while hunting and fishing. Of course, he would ask the bear yek to make the bears leave me in peace. A yek was a spiritual helper he used to make contact with the spirit world. He knew how to control them to the benefit of his people.

As we went around to the summerhouses that day, he also showed me other things to eat and things to avoid. He gave me the ‘Lingit names for them, but I forgot those long ago. There was a kind of seaweed, some manoomin, a sort of pea, the soft layer under the bark of the hemlock, and a plant with huge leaves and large hollow stems (one peeled and ate the stems, either raw or cooked). There was a poisonous plant that also had huge leaves and stems, but the leaves were prickly and the stems had poisonous spines. This plant also had berries that had to be avoided.

There was nothing particularly notable about the ‘Lingit method of smoking meat. It consisted of using racks high about the hearth, placing thinly sliced pieces of meat on them and building up a large smoky fire with evergreen branches. It also required keeping low to avoid choking on all the smoke. I began to see the reason for the sunken area around the hearth. He told me I could also smoke the meat and fish where I caught it, but it could attract attention from the sea. The extensive mudflats west and south of this area tended to keep away the trading traffic, but billows of smoke near the western or southern shore (there were ‘Lingit settlements in those directions: Seet Kah on the north end of the large island to the west and Kaachxana-aakw near the north end of the large island to the south beyond the small islands) might invite the curious, so it would be best if I did all my smoking in the house. The mask he would put on the house would also keep away any ‘Lingit since they would think it was the burial place of a shaman and would not want to disturb it. He showed me the mask. It was carved of wood, and painted blue with a red mouth and dark blue eyebrows. The face showed surprise, I think. He placed it on the front of the house next to the door. He explained that he used masks to control the yeks, but he had already replaced this one at the request of the yek and had been assured it would still work in the capacity of a shield.

After breakfast the following morning, Ganook announced it was time for him to leave. He promised to look in on me once in a while and assured me he would have his yeks watch over me. I watched him leave, and then wandered down to the mouth of the little bay. To my surprise, there was a huge glacier across the large bay of which my little bay was merely an inlet. The glacier was perhaps six li up the bay from my inlet. It was at least three li wide and a few hundred feet high. While I watched, a bit of it fell off into the sea and sent a large wave down the bay toward me. I moved up the slope a bit, but it really didn’t come close to being a tidal wave. I climbed up the slopes east of the village to do a little hunting. I was able to get two more deer before midday and brought them down to the house to prepare that afternoon.

The next few days, I continued to hunt near the house and was successful almost every day, at least with deer. I decided to try out the summerhouses at last, once all the meat was smoked to my satisfaction. I set out to the first house and tried my luck with fishing. I was moderately successful, but was only catching enough to feed myself while I fished. I moved on to the second house, because it was about time for the migrating birds to be arriving. Sure enough there were a few geese feeding in the marsh when I arrived, but I noticed there were hundreds of the white-headed eagles fishing along the shore. I had never seen so many of them in one place. It was hunted for its feathers in the Blue Sky, but I could never kill a bird for its feathers. I retreated to the second house and tried fishing in the stream until the birds arrived in force. On the third day, the morning was filled with the unmistakable racket of migrating birds. I worked my way down to the marsh and bagged about fifty of them, mostly geese, by early afternoon. I had to make a travois to haul them back to the house. I had a very long evening preparing all of them for smoking. Indeed I was still at it the next day. I finished in the late afternoon and then spent the next two days smoking all the meat.

So it went that spring, I visited each of the summerhouses, hunted or fished then hauled the game to the house to smoke it. I found it necessary to sleep outside of the house as spring wore on since it became much too hot to sleep in the house. It was never really that hot outside, and it seemed to rain often, but the house would get quite close to hot, since it only had the one opening. Late in the spring Ganook came to visit again. He praised my industry, but felt I should take it easy for a while since I nearly had enough meat for the winter and it wasn’t time for salmon. He reminded me of the need to pick and dry berries during the summer. I assured him I had not forgotten about the berries, although I still had a few dried ones left. He took the occasion of this visit to show me how the ‘Lingit made cloth. It seems they shred cedar bark into a soft flexible state with a shredding device. Then it was woven into cloth. I didn’t have the patience to do much weaving, but by the end of the summer I did manage to make one blanket-sized piece of cedar cloth. As my clothes wore out I replaced them with deerskin. I had learned how to make clothes from deerskin in Itsati, when I was still a boy. I didn’t find myself missing cotton, since it was rather cool and wet that summer. He also showed me how the ‘Lingit caught and extracted the oil from the oil fish. They caught them with dipnets made from sinew, although some were experimenting with a pole with iron tines at the end. Once caught, the fish were placed in a boat, half buried in the sand and allowed to ripen at least ten days. Then the boat was filled with water and hot stones from a fire near at hand. As the mixture was stirred, oil would rise to the top and I could scoop it with a spoon. I could further press the residue through a basket to extract the last bit of the oil. The fish could also be eaten raw, dried, or smoked and even used as a candle when dried. He showed me where he had hidden a boat for my use. Finally, he gave me a vile-looking substance that he promised would keep away the clouds of mosquitoes that plagued late spring and early summer whenever one was out of the breeze (there was a general northeast breeze). It was a rather greasy mess but actually worked. I didn’t want to know what was in it. Once again I marveled at the way the nose adjusted to grave insult.

Ganook only stayed a few days, and then he was gone again. He had not heard from my brother yet, or anyone else for that matter. I tried relaxing a bit, but it was no good. I would think about Carlotta and begin to miss her too much. I felt myself slipping into depression, so I went back to work. I spent much of the rather mild and pleasant summer catching and preparing (smoking or rendering) fish and gathering and drying berries (Ganook had told me that the ‘Lingit also preserved berries in the fish oil, but that idea didn’t appeal to me). It was amazing how many berries there were.

It was while I was picking berries one day that I ran into one of the great bears. I had been working the bushes along the slopes of the western branch of the stream that emptied into the inlet. I was at least three li from the house and had been picking all day, filling the large basket, and carrying it back to the house three times already. It was getting late, but I was determined to fill it once more. I had been working my way back toward the house during the day. I had just dumped the contents of the small handbasket into the large basket when I heard a distinct huffing noise. I recognized that sound from my youth and reached down for the spear. I raised it up and looked toward the sound, just a little downstream from me, but across the creek. The huffing was soon accompanied with some grunting and I inched back into the trees dragging my berry basket with me. I continued to look toward the sound and finally a huge brown bear poked through the bushes greedily consuming the berries as he went. Once he reached the stream, he stopped for a drink and went back to eating his way along the bank. Suddenly he stopped, and raising himself on his hind legs to a height I never could have imagined, he began to sniff the air probingly. I did not want to have to kill such a magnificent animal, so I crouched down low hoping to cover my scent among the berries. He continued to sniff and was pointedly looking in my direction, but finally felt satisfied and went back to gorging on the berries. Occasionally he would glance back toward my hiding place. Eventually he moved back up the slope and his huffing and grunting grew fainter. I was in awe of the creature. It made me really hope my cousin Henry’s spirit guide would stop his bear killing. Once I could hear no more, I ended the day’s berry picking and dragged my basket back to the house. Toward the end of summer, Ganook came again to make sure I followed the ritual when I caught my first salmon. He was surprised that I hadn’t already started catching them. He told me the run had already begun in this area. In any case, I was to take the first one I caught, thank the salmon spirit, cook and eat the fish, then carefully return all the bones to the stream with the head facing upstream. This was essential or the salmon would stop coming back every year, and his people would starve. I assured him I would do everything just as he said, and even wrote down the prayer just as he said it in ‘Lingit so that the salmon spirit would understand it. He was very pleased with me, and told me that I could get my first salmon in the stream by the third summerhouse, tomorrow. He then showed me how the weirs and traps for catching the salmon worked and helped me make leisters and gaff hooks for spearing them out of the streams. He left the next morning.

He was exactly right. That midday I was by the third summerhouse and saw the salmon coming upstream. I quickly speared one and followed all the ritual just as Ganook had taught me. After that I was very busy for many days catching and smoking salmon. I moved from one stream to another, catching, cleaning, hauling to the house and smoking. By the end of the runs I was exhausted. I estimated that I had enough food to feed four or five people all winter long. Still, I was not done and after a short rest I went back to berry picking. I would still see the occasional salmon in the streams, but I bothered them no longer. I found it best to keep away from the streams since the bears were still catching and eating the salmon with much gusto.

By early fall I felt there was no point in gathering any more food. I decided to cut firewood for the winter. I set to this task with my usual energy and soon had a mountain of it. Next I thought it would be a good idea to protect the wood from the rain, so scavenged enough planks from the other houses to build a sort of shed for the wood, near the house. It was not completely enclosed, but was open on the side toward the house. Next I built a tub out of wood and placed it in another larger shed with a hearth and a smoke hole. Finally I decided to build a sweathouse. I placed the new structures so that they would not be easily visible from the bay.

I was toying with the idea of building a separate smokehouse, but instead decided to wander around a bit and leave that project for the winter. On a whim, I climbed up the mountain between the first and second summerhouses. It was quite a climb, but the top was bare stone and I had quite a view from it, once it stopped raining. To the east there was a snowcapped ridge separating my peninsula from the mainland. To the northeast I could see some of the bay and part of the glacier. To the north was an area much like mine: cut off from the mainland by mountains, but not snow-capped from my vantage. To the west was the sea, huge mudflats on the near shore, a channel and a large island in the distance. To the south were more mudflats and several islands smaller than the one to the west. To the southeast was a larger and higher mountain than the one on which I was standing. It was really more of ridge. I decided I would have to climb it the next day.

I made an easy passage to the other mountain by going by way of the fourth summerhouse. This greatly reduced the climb and I reached the summit only to discover there was another summit a little farther to the east. Once I reached the latter, I could not be sure which was higher. From this latter vantage I could see up the Stikine River for quite a few li and I could see some boat activity on it. I could also see the southern shore of the river. It looked less mountainous and was obviously occupied from all the smoke rising from various areas. There didn’t appear to be anyone on the small islands south of my position, but there were quite a few migratory birds in the marshes on their south sides. I could just make out some smoke coming from another island beyond them, but it was too far away to see clearly. I could also see some smoke coming from the large island to the west, but it seemed to be away from the near shore, either well inland or on its west coast. It was hard to tell from here if it was really an island or a very long peninsula. Not wishing to spend the night on the mountaintop, especially since it was raining again, I retraced my steps to the fourth summerhouse for the night. The next day I returned to the cedar house.

It was around this time that I started noticing the northern lights. I had, of course, seen them once in a while on my trek through the Tinneh lands, but I was usually too tired to pay them much attention. Now that I finally had some time on my hands, I could really enjoy them. I remembered that Grandfather had mentioned them in his book and wondered about them when I read those passages. Until this trip, however, I had never been far enough north to see them. They were remarkable and I would often look outside after dark on clear nights to see if they were there.
When I got back to the house, I once again had nothing to do, so I decided to draw a map of the area. That would keep me busy for a while, especially since the rain would interrupt me constantly. I climbed up to the snow line on the eastern massif and sketched in the northern shore from that vantage. I went on to the other two mountains again to get the eastern and southern shores and a crude outline of the islands. Next I went along the shore to get the smaller details and note the limits of beaches and marshes. All the tree cover and the rain made this a very difficult task, exactly what I needed. It was late fall by the time I finished. It had been raining almost continuously for several days and was beginning to get rather cold, especially at night. I was admiring the finished map when a visitor announced himself. It was Ganook. I went out to greet him and found he was not alone. Theodore was with him.

“Well, little brother, how do you like exile?” he grinned.
“Actually, it’s a little lonely. How is Carlotta?”
“She is well. In fact she will be joining you soon.”

“She is here? How did she get here? What about Hiacoomes? Don’t tell me you let that poor old man make the trip here?”

“Can’t you just ask one question at a time? She is near here, but obviously not here. She got here overland and by boat like most people. I am sorry to tell you that Hiacoomes died in the spring. He was not ill, just very old. I was with him at the time, and he insisted that I bring Carlotta to you after he died. Of course, I would not have let him make the trip here even if he insisted.”

“Hiacoomes is dead? Did he suffer much?”

 

“No it was a very peaceful death in his sleep. He knew it was his time and was quite content since he knew Carlotta was safe and would be protected.”

 

“If you brought Carlotta with you, where is she?”

“She insisted on staying in Stikine with Ganook’s wonderful wife, Kaatkwaaxsnei, to learn how the ‘Lingit women perform wifely tasks. She did not want to be unable to fulfill her duties because she was unfamiliar with the resources at hand around here. She is a very wise woman. You have found a real gem there, Karl.”

“I know. Still, I wish she had come with you. I miss her so much. I wouldn’t care if we had to struggle for a while trying to figure out how to do things.”

“Much as I am loath to give unsolicited advice, never argue with your wife about her domain. You have neither the knowledge nor the right. Let her do it her way. She’ll be here sooner than you might think. I just had to make sure you were still alive and in one piece before I brought her.”

“Were you followed?’
“Of course, but I lost them near the Salmon Ordu.”
“How?”

“Well, I logically took Carlotta to visit her new relatives during your exile. Then while we were there, two more relatives of ours, a man and a woman came to visit. They rather looked like us and somehow our followers followed them the next day as they went to visit my family. Then we slipped away. I darkened Carlotta’s skin as she said you had last summer, and then we turned her into a boy for the rest of the trip. She is still a boy in Stikine.”

“I can’t even imagine that.”
“After getting to know her, I can assure you she will not be a boy when you see her again.”

I invited them in and they both marveled at all the food I had stockpiled for the winter. I offered them whatever they wanted and Theodore accepted a sack of smoked salmon and a sack of dried berries very gratefully. I told him about the Khakhan’s suspicions about him, but he shrugged it off and told me not to worry about him. I asked after the rest of the family and he brought me up to date. My father was somewhere on the west coast south of the Salmon Ordu. Mathilde and the children were well and still at the Panther Ordu. Aspenquid was still on campaign in the Green Mist and in fine shape so far. Sarah, Tepeyolotl and all their children were well. He had run into them in the lands of the Totonaca. Their eldest, Teypachtli, will soon go on campaign in the Clouds. Ignace and Goa were well also; he had come across them in the lands of the Ben Zah. Ignace had been made a minor official there. His son John was assisting him; his son Theodore was with the Monkey Ordu somewhere southwest of Purepecha lands. Paula was married to a Putun Maya, of all things. He couldn’t imagine where she met him, but Ignace was not pleased about it and wouldn’t even mention his name. The youngest, Leo, was in the Pelican Ordu now; he was training to be a cannoneer. Sealth and Kudeitsaakw were expected in Stikine soon with their three children. Taiwit was quite ill, but Simahi was taking good care of him.

I pointed out he had neglected to mention his family. He chuckled, and told me that Mahwissa and the children were well and waiting for him with some of our relatives (and his and Carlotta’s stand-ins) near the Salmon Ordu. I pressed him that he had never told me much about his children. He shrugged and told me that they were still young. Sarah was twelve and very much the dreamer like her mother. John was nine and had shown some interest in healing. Paula was only six and had shown interest in reading. She seemed quite bright and he hoped to get her back to Cuauhnahuac where she could read all of Grandfather’s books.

I then told him what I had learned about our Siksika relatives from Kiskap and my chance encounter with our cousin ‘Enri. He was amazed that I had come upon him. He had heard about Leo, of course, but had thought he had been killed by a bear by now. He would tell the Siksika relatives about ‘Enri and urge them to seek him out and bring him into the family sphere if at all possible. I could not get anything about his apparent clandestine activities out of him. He laughed it off and said I had an overactive imagination. I couldn’t even get a straight answer out of him as to for whom this house was originally intended. He told me it was just in case it was needed by someone and I happened to be the first one who needed it.

I showed them my map of the area and told them about the various places and my “adventures.” Ganook was pleased by the bear story, but little else surprised him, except my failure to adorn anything. He wondered if I was not artistically inclined. Theodore, remembering my adventures in the Texcoco calmecac, found that very funny. I had to admit, that my artistic abilities had never been marked by anyone. Ganook thought that was most unfortunate, and genuinely pitied me. He told me that so far, none of his people had any idea that I was here, so I had done a good job of keeping a low profile. He was also quite happy that the mask had kept away any harm. I thanked him again for all his help.

I showed them my new outbuildings. Both were impressed. Theodore wanted to try out the bathhouse immediately. Ganook was curious about the sweat lodge. I decided to join Ganook in the sweat lodge so I could show him the Ani Yun’-wiya way and he very much enjoyed it, as did I. Theodore also praised the bathhouse. I mentioned my plan to build a smokehouse that winter. Ganook thought it a rather odd idea, but Theodore could see my point immediately, since the house was still smoky.

The next day they left to go back and get Carlotta. I scurried around getting everything cleaned up. I noticed that the planks that formed the walls of the house could be easily removed, so I removed some of them on opposite sides of the house to blow out the still-noticeable smoke. It was actually rather dark in the house since the only openings were the door and the smoke hole. I wondered if I could cut windows into the planks and perhaps cover them with shutters. I began this project right away and was done by the next day. Since it was just possible that my brother would return that evening, I thoroughly washed myself in the bathhouse and all my clothes in the stream. I was all ready and quite excited.

That evening I prepared a meal large enough for four, and while it was cooking, I kept wandering to the door to look up the stream. Finally, near dusk I saw three figures emerge from the trees onto the sandy beach. One was definitely a woman. I could wait no longer. I took the food off the fire and ran to meet her. As soon as she saw me, she ran to meet me. We were still embracing and separating to look at each other and embracing again while Theodore and Ganook passed by and continued on to the house. I excitedly wanted to show Carlotta everything, and then I remembered Hiacoomes and consoled her on his loss. In retrospect, I must have seemed mad, flitting around everywhere, unable to keep any thought for more than a moment. Finally, Carlotta took my hand and led me into the house to eat. It had been almost a year since I had seen her, and if possible I loved her even more. She easily took over the entertainment of our guests and praised everything I had done. She was particularly pleased with the windows but actually liked the lingering smoky smell of the house. Ganook was rather puzzled by the windows, but after examining them decided they were an interesting innovation.

That night Theodore and Ganook insisted on spending the night under the stars up near the stream. I couldn’t have been more grateful, and Carlotta did not try to dissuade them. I remember every moment of that night as if it were yesterday. I always will.

Theodore and Ganook only stayed until midday the next day; then they left. Ganook promised to look in on us again in the spring and Theodore promised to write to Ganook so he could tell us what was going on. He told me that Ganook would take him to Kaachxana-aakw and from there he would work his way back to his family. I noticed he was dressed like a ‘Lingit and he confirmed that he was traveling in disguise. Ganook explained that his village assumed he was taking Theodore and his “nephew” to Kaachxana-aakw. The people there would see two ‘Lingit arrive and one go one back north and the other south. No one would mark the event. That way we could continue undisturbed. Still we must remain vigilant, and if we saw a boat in the bay, we must disappear into the woods at once.

We embraced them both, then stood with our arms around each other and watched until they disappeared from view up the stream. We returned to getting reacquainted.

Before long the first snow fell. It was heavy and very wet. It was just beginning to melt when a heavier snow fell. Carlotta set to work at wifely tasks while I worked on the smokehouse. I picked a house near ours, but downwind. It did not have to be as free of draughts as ours, but did need to be fairly solid. It took quite a while to fix it up. Meanwhile, Carlotta had made blankets, clothes, baskets, and any number of small things to make life easier that hadn’t even occurred to me. I had never seen quite so much snow in a winter before, and one time when it seemed clear outside, it proved to be bitter cold with a brutal northeast wind howling, but it wouldn’t have bothered me if there had been twice as much snow or an even colder wind. It was the most wonderful winter I had ever had.

25
Exile and Return, 99–104 K
(SE AK to NW IO, 1467–72)

By the time Ganook came to visit the next spring, Carlotta and I were so attuned to each other, that we would anticipate what the other needed and finish each other’s sentences. It was rather strange but wonderful. I had finished the smokehouse and moved all the drying racks into it. Ganook was pleased to see that we had prospered the past winter and suggested that I not catch quite so much game this year, since I still had so much. I asked if he knew of any family that might need some extra food, but he explained that there was always an abundance of food among the ‘Lingit—no one ever went hungry. I was able to get him to take some of the fish oil with him since we did not really use it very much and his people never got enough of it. He told me that Theodore had written that the Khakhan’s agents had followed my father all the way down to Raven Bay thinking he was going to visit me. Instead he had led them all the way around the bay looking for a mysterious reed that did not exist. He would continue to wander around far to the south until they gave up on him. The ones watching Theodore and Carlotta’s stand-ins had not noticed his return and followed him when he took Carlotta’s stand-in with him to visit Mahwissa and the children. He was sure they would soon conclude that I had indeed gone to the old land and give up the surveillance. Carlotta’s stand-in would stay with him until they did give up. He had no news from anyone else since he had spent the winter with his family visiting my mother’s relatives. Only he, my father, and Ganook and his wife knew where we were.

The next few years flew by. Carlotta and I were so happy together, we didn’t even mind that no children came. Ganook was puzzled about it, but said his yeks could find nothing wrong with either of us. He was certain there was no evil spirit thwarting things, but he would continue to look into it. Carlotta was afraid I would be upset, but once she realized I really didn’t care she was greatly relieved. If anything, the absence of children enabled us to concentrate completely on each other and we became extremely close—perhaps too close. Ganook would visit us a few times each year and bring any news from my brother. Theodore did not come nor did my father. The second year of my “exile” my brother sent word that my cousin George the Khan of Anahuac and his wife Chabi had had a son. He was named John. Later that year he sent word that cousin George had died of a strange ailment and his infant son John was now Khan with Chabi as regent. My cousin Theodore was very protective of the boy and was looking out for him as was my old friend Acapipioltzin who was the boy’s cousin. It was obvious to me the Khakhan had waited until his grandson was born before moving against George. The strange ailment was probably a strange poison. He had been right; he had far better agents than did George. I just hoped he would not harm cousin Theodore also. I had to admit it was the most prudent way of removing a potential rival and almost bloodless. But I couldn’t believe the people of Anahuac accepted a woman as regent—in the Blue Sky that might work, but never in Anahuac. There had to be some official fiction to smooth that over.

During the late spring of the fourth year, Carlotta and I were smoking some game when I heard a shout and looking out of the smokehouse saw a large boat pulling into our bay. We slipped out of the back of the house, crept into the woods behind the houses, and climbed up the slope to our vantage point. It was a place where there was a small cliff from which one could see the settlement, but could not be seen. The boat pulled into the beach in front of the houses. The men on board were mostly from the south, very likely soldiers from the Salmon Ordu on patrol. There was a single ‘Lingit with them. He went ahead and as he approached our house suddenly stopped and ran back to the boat urging the men back aboard. I could see that the commander was somewhat reluctant, really wanting to investigate the smoke from the smokehouse, but finally they put back out to sea and turned back up and out of the bay. I assumed the man had seen the mask and fled the house. The commander probably thought the man was a fool, but the standing order in the army is to respect the beliefs of our allies, so he had to withdraw. This incident made us a bit nervous and we both found ourselves looking up the inlet and up the creek frequently. When we recounted the incident to Ganook on his next visit, he was very pleased that his mask had done its job, and assured us we need not concern ourselves.

There were no other “visitors” (except Ganook, of course) during the rest of my exile. In the fall of the fifth year, I decided we might as well remain another year. We had a great deal of smoked fish and meat and dried berries, and my exile did actually begin in the middle of winter, so it seemed prudent not to show up in the Khakhanate too soon. I sent my brother word that I wanted to stay an extra year. Eventually he wrote back that he thought it was a good idea. He felt it would really throw off the Khakhan, since he would be expecting me back next year. He promised to come to get me in the spring of the following year. He would be in touch to advise me just when he would come. Actually, we were in no hurry to leave. We were having a wonderful time in “exile.” It was true that the weather was rarely as warm as we liked (the winters lasted almost half the year), and all the rain and snow were growing tiresome, as were the disconcertingly long days around the summer solstice and the irritatingly short ones around the winter solstice. But when it did clear up, it was beautiful, and it could get quite warm in the summer, although never for long, and there was an unquestioned abundance of food. Also, any night we cared to look we would be treated to the often spectacular display of the northern lights. Any night that was clear, we would take a look—especially during the long winter nights. They were usually blue and yellow, but sometimes they would be green, white, pink, and even red. Their shape was often snaking ribbons, but could also be balls and streaks. The Dzitsiistas said that they predicted bad weather, but I never did see a connection.

I stockpiled quite a bit of the smoked salmon and dried berries over the next year with a view of trading them in the south when we returned. I calculated that this would certainly pay our way all the way back to Anahuac, where I decided I wanted to go. Carlotta was excited about visiting Anahuac and looked forward to our journey. We were quite comfortable that last winter since we only ventured out to get wood or use the outbuildings. I remember wondering if someone else would be using the house after we left.

As soon as we could determine that last spring had arrived, we busily got everything packed up to go. I also made some travois so we could carry it all. We had just gotten everything ready when Theodore and Ganook arrived. They were pleased to see that everything was ready. They spent the night and Theodore brought me up to date on the family. My father was somewhere in Anahuac. Aspenquid had returned from campaign as a jagun commander and had decided to remain in the army. He, Mathilde, and the children were moving to the Pelican Ordu where he would remain for a few years before going on campaign again. Sarah and Tepeyolotl were well and trading in the Khanate of the Clouds. Teypachtli was still on campaign there but should be finishing soon and return with them. Ignace had left the service of the Khanate and was now running a sort of inn in the city of Cholula. As to Ignace’s children, John went on another campaign, as did Theodore. Leo was badly injured in an accident with cannon and had died last summer. My brother had run into the “prodigal” Paula and met her fine husband, Ek Muyal. He very much liked him and was further convinced that Ignace was being ridiculous. My brother Sealth and his family were all well and still didn’t know that we were here. My brother Taiwit, he was sorry to report, died this past winter, and Simahi was inconsolable, although Mathilde was trying.

Again I had to prod him about his family and he told me they were well and waiting for him in Cuauhnahuac. Again I pressed him about the children and he reported that Sarah had married a young man from Cuauhnahuac named Ghazan, whose great-grandfather had been one of the original Mongols who came from the old land with our grandfather. John was learning to be a healer and he had left him with a load of work. Paula was reading her way through Grandfather’s library, much as I had. Our Siksika relatives had managed to find ‘Enri and at least partially bring him into the family circle. He did stop his war on the great bear at the urging of his spirit guide. It had been very difficult for him since it had been the focus of his life for so long. He wandered around aimlessly for a while, then found his way to Kuriltaibalikh and our cousin Kiskap. The latter took him under his wing and brought him to see the other relatives. He had since married and settled down in Kuriltaibalikh next to Kiskap. I asked about my mother’s relatives, but he said I could find out for myself when I finally met them on my return.

I asked after cousin Theodore and was relieved to hear that he was well and still watching over his nephew John like a mother bear over her cub. Chabi was happy to let him, since she was more interested in running the Khanate than bothering with a small boy. Fortunately, she was grudgingly accepting some advice from Nezahualcoyotl. The latter had probably kept her from running the Khanate into the ground. He was not sure what the Khakhan was up to but planned to find out. I urged him to be careful and he laughed, as usual.

The next morning we rose early, ate a light meal, loaded up the travois, took a last look around, and set off south up the stream toward the Stikine River. The walk was beautiful with all the wildflowers in the clearings and all the blossoms on the berry bushes. It actually didn’t rain during this last walk, and the air was fresh with a gentle southwest breeze. I actually regretted leaving. We arrived at the river in the midafternoon and loaded up the large boat Ganook and Theodore had left there. We set off down the river around the north side of an island in the middle of the river and through a bewildering maze of channels among the mudflats finally emerging near an island south of the large island west of my peninsula, late in the afternoon. There one of the very large, four-masted Koryo ships was waiting at anchor, and we were taken aboard with all our goods. We settled on our fare and were shown our spot on the lower deck. Ganook tied his boat to the ship with a long rope. The ship weighed anchor and started south. I asked Theodore how he knew the ship would be waiting here for us. He shrugged and admitted that he had sent a message to a friend in Sitka, where the Koryo ships always stop, and asked him to pay the captain to wait for us here until dusk today. Sitka was another ‘Lingit village on an island to the west. During the long dusk that prevails here at this time of year, we arrived at Kaachxana-aakw and dropped anchor again. We stayed aboard at Theodore’s request and Ganook bid us all farewell and quietly slipped into his boat and paddled ashore for the night.

The ship left the next morning (after the very short night) and continued south stopping occasionally at very large villages. I noticed no passengers got on or off along this way, but goods were exchanged, mostly fur for silk. The coast was quite striking from the vantage of the boat. Huge snow-capped mountains seem to rise right out of the sea all along the coast. The trees would begin right at the ocean and climb partway up the mountains, then give way to rock and ice. Sometimes there would be a pebble beach along the shore. Even the offshore islands seemed to be mountainous, but not as high, and many of them were completely covered with trees. In some areas a mist clung to the shore, partly or completely hiding it. At times we could see bears along the shore, we could almost always see the white-headed eagle, and once in a while we could just make out one of the mountain goats way up on the rocky slopes of the mountains. The sea was filled with the colorful boats of the various people of the coast, trading, hunting sea animals, fishing, or even traveling. All would wave and shout greetings to our boat as we glided by them on stiff sails, made of bamboo battens with matting stretched between them. The large ship moved gracefully and quickly through the channels easily outpacing all other craft. We also came upon whales, sea otters, and seals along the way.

We soon passed through ‘Lingit lands and came to the areas of the Xa’ida and the Tsimshian. The former lived on islands well offshore. We stopped at a village of theirs called Kayung, near the north end of a large island at the mouth of a river. They looked much like the ‘Lingit, and spoke a vaguely similar language. The latter lived along the Tsimshian River on the mainland. We stopped at a village named Kitwilksheba north of the river. They reminded me of ‘Lingit in looks and housing, but their language was quite different. Both people used the large carved poles—just like the ‘Lingit.

We bypassed a people called the Bi’ Ixula, who lived just south of the Tsimshian, but stopped at a village called Kwakwakas belonging to the Kwakiutl, their neighbors to the south, with whom they had a similar language. They were shorter than the northern tribes, but from the looks of things they had also adopted the prevailing housing and customs along the coast. I had to wonder who started it all. Theodore said these latter people spoke a language vaguely like that of my mother’s first husband’s people, the Salst. I had learned that language as a child, but had not used it in a long time and frankly, could detect no resemblance at all. But, I was hardly an expert and Theodore had actually spent time among them. The next tribe we encountered was the Catlo’ltx. They lived along much of the east coast of a very large island as well as the smaller islands to the east of it. They were tall like the northern tribes, but darker more like the Salst. I could detect some similar words between these people and the Salst. Next we encountered the Halkome’lem, yet another tribe much like the Salst in language and appearance, but also using the plank houses and the carved poles.

Finally, we reached Dsidsila’letc, a bustling town in the lands of the Coastal Salst (related to the Mountain Salst to the east) near the mouth of a river called the Duwamish. This was a town that had developed from a small Salst village into a major port town. There was a large Koryo settlement with their distinct houses, adjacent to the spreading town, with mostly large plank houses, but also some of the conical hide tents and even a few yurts. There was a large army camp just south of the town, the relocated Salmon Ordu. Once it dropped anchor, the ship was met by officials of the Khakhanate who inspected the cargo and the passengers. Most of the other passengers were Koryo immigrants. They were waved through without comment. When the official, a Hotcangara (of all things) named Waywee Kayme, came to our group, he stopped and smirked.

“Well, I was expecting you last year. I suppose you enjoyed Koryo so much you couldn’t tear yourself away. I didn’t realize your wife accompanied you in exile, or did your brother bring her to meet you.” “Actually they call it Choson now,” I replied. “And my brother did bring my wife to meet me. Thank you for your interest.”

“Where will you be going?” The smirk faded.
“To Cuauhnahuac.”
“Have a pleasant journey.” He coldly dismissed us.

Theodore was very pleased with my answers. He was quite sure the Khakhan knew I had not gone to Koryo, but after that exchange was duly passed on, he would not be so certain. It was always best to keep potential enemies confused, he assured me. I asked if he still thought the Khakhan considered me an enemy. He wasn’t sure, but felt it was prudent to assume he did. I was rather sorry to hear that. I didn’t particularly wish to look over my shoulder all the way through the Blue Sky. We debarked and were met by Sealth and his family. Kudeitsaakw made a big fuss over me and introduced me to the children, Paula (age seventeen), Taiwit (fifteen) and Skolaskin (twelve). We went home with them since they now lived in the town in one of the plank houses. The house was similar in appearance to our ‘Lingit house only on the outside, although even there the house was rectangular and sited parallel to the river, and the oval door (on a smaller side) faced downstream. Inside the house had a plank floor, but it was not fitted like ours had been, and there was no recessed area in the middle, but rather built up benches around the hearth. The roof was made of planks and slanted. Other houses in the town had different-shaped roofs and some had porches built on the front of the houses.
Once we were alone with our hosts, we told them where we had actually been and about all Ganook’s help. They were amazed that we had pulled it off. Kudeitsaakw couldn’t believe her brother and his wife managed to keep it secret from them all these years, especially since they visited with them almost every year. We prevailed on them not to mention it to anyone.

We spent a few days with them while Theodore went on ahead, and then went with them to visit some of our other relatives in the area. I finally got to meet some of my mother’s relatives. I always thought it odd that Grandfather only mentioned three of my other grandfather’s children and, in fact, barely mentioned him after their assignments separated them. Perhaps he wasn’t that much of a friend. In any case, it seemed the legendary Padraig had seven children. Four (Cloe, Moira, Philippe, and Karl) had died as children. Of those that reached maturity, the eldest, Pierre, had settled in the east, rising to tumen commander during several tours of duty in the Green Mist. He and his wife had no children (small wonder since he was never home). The second child was Nial; my grandfather had mentioned that he had been sent to rescue our family during the Zhen plague. He had settled near the old site of the Salmon Ordu and had died the year I was born. He had two surviving children, Padraig and Mathilde, both of whom lived near enough to visit. Padraig had been in the Salmon Ordu for a while and had done a tour in the Green Mist, rising to the rank of minghan commander, but was now retired and running a yam east of the town. He was quite old and in poor health and had recently lost his wife, a Salst. He had four living children, Pierre, Cloe, Philippe, and Moira. The two sons were in the east, Cloe had never married and was still with her father, Moira had married a Salst and lived in a nearby village. She came by to visit, bringing along her young child. Cloe was a handsome woman of about forty years. I was surprised she never married, but it was none of my business. Mathilde had married a Nimipu and we visited them as we went east. The last of the elder Padraig’s children was, of course, my mother.

My cousin Padraig remembered my mother as his favorite aunt, happy, laughing all the time, with a wonderful sense of humor and something of a tease. She was only a little older than he, and had taught him to read and write. She and her first husband Skolaskin had been so in love and so happy together it made him want to get married also. When Skolaskin died she changed so abruptly, he couldn’t bear to see her. He was relieved when my father came and they decided to keep each other company since they were friends, rather than pine away alone. He could never bring himself to visit Cuauhnahuac since my mother had changed so much. My father had always been rather quiet and cold, so he was no draw either. Still, he regretted that he had been unable to comfort her in her loss and was sorry he had not forced himself to visit us while she was still alive. I was glad someone remembered my mother that way, but I couldn’t imagine it, myself.

My cousin Mathilde lived in a rather large Nimipu village near the junction of the Nimipu and the Kimooenim rivers. She confirmed my recollection that Grandfather had visited this town on his first expedition to the west. She was seventy and had lost her husband some years before. She had five children but only three were still alive. She was living with the eldest, Paula, named after my mother, also her favorite aunt. Her son, Hallalhotsoot, had been a jagun commander in the Antelope Ordu. He had retired a few years ago and now ran a yam near the Ordu. The youngest, Miriam, was married and lived in a nearby village. She stopped by to visit before we left. She had three grown children who had all moved away from home and now lived in the east. Both daughters were quite striking, tall and slim and just a shade lighter than the dark Nimipu. They were all very pleasant and friendly people. Paula’s husband was back from campaign, but had to train recruits for a year before he could come home again. Miriam’s husband was away on a hunting expedition. He had never gone on campaign.

It had been nice to visit these relatives I had never met before. They welcomed Carlotta and me into the family as if we had been coming to see them for years. I enjoyed hearing their stories of my other grandparents, Padraig and Mathilde. He was apparently a very tender, loving man, who doted on his children and grandchildren. She was a charming, stunning woman who captivated everyone who met her. It was strange that they only had ten living descendants while my other grandparents had at least fifty. It made me wish I could have known them all, especially my mother the way they remembered her.

Sealth and his family returned home while we continued east along the yam system with no more stops until we reached Sharbalikh. There I looked up Atot’ain and his family. He had already left for the north, but we had a nice visit with Wunoantome and the boys. They were delighted that I had made it back and that I had thought to stop by. While there, I took Carlotta to see Sakcewescam and all his dogs. He, too, was pleased that I had thought to look him up. The dogs were loud and quarrelsome as usual. Carlotta couldn’t imagine putting up with all the noise.

It was late summer by the time we reached Khartsgaibalikh. I went to call on cousin George. He and Ba-ahnoce were pleasantly surprised to see us. Theodore had stopped by with Carlotta on their way west, so they were pleased to renew her acquaintance as well. I tried to return the spear he gave me since I hadn’t needed it, but he wouldn’t even consider taking it back. I mentioned meeting my cousin ‘Enri while on my trek and he admitted that Theodore had already told him about it. He mentioned that he had known of Kiskap for years, but hadn’t realized he was vaguely related. I asked about my uncle Ignace’s children since it just occurred to me that they had been sent to Khartsgaibalikh when they were children and had returned and left again never to return long before I was born.

He was lost in thought for a while, and then told me about them. There were four of them, Simon, Ruth, Peter, and Paulina. They were about a year apart in age. They had come as children to the Hawk Ordu to stay with his grandfather’s family before he was born. They were well liked by all and when they returned over the years he had come to know them. They had all died over the years, but had lived full lives. Simon had become a smith and had served in that capacity with the Alligator Ordu. He had married a Timacua woman and they had three children that survived childhood. All of them still lived among the Timacua. Ruth had married an Anishinabe and moved east to live in his village. They had two children who still lived in the village. It is a large one near the west coast of Gichigami Lake. Peter had joined the Ordu and served variously in it for many years. He died of wounds in the Green Mist when he was near retirement. He had never married, but knowing him, had probably left issue all over the Khakhanate. Paulina married a young man in the Hawk Ordu. He left the army after a tour in the Green Mist and they settled down in his home village. He was a member of the tribe called Tsoyaha. They had four children, all of whom still live there. He was pleased that I had brought them up, he hadn’t thought of them in years, and it had brought back a flood of pleasant memories.

I remember thinking that this was one of the legacies of the Mongols. Families became scattered as many young men and women moved away and some people never met many of their relatives. It would happen before the Mongols when a person was captured and adopted into a new tribe, but it was rarely by choice the way it was now. I wondered if all the freedom of movement had somehow undermined the cohesive family unit. I also wondered if that was necessarily a bad thing. I suspect all this wondering was the reason I never amounted to anything. I suspect my grandfather did very little wondering.

I was at the point where I had to decide whether to visit or bypass Khanbalikh. I put off the decision until I was at the point where the trunk road to the capital turned east and the smaller trade trail crossed the Mongol River. Carlotta had already told me the decision was mine and not hers. At the last moment I turned east. I decided it was best to visit the city openly and if the Khakhan had anything to say to me, he could easily do so, and if not I could continue home without looking over my shoulder. I hoped I was not being rash.

It was already fall when we reached Khanbalikh. We arrived in the late afternoon and were saluted by the sentries at the entrance to the city. We rode slowly weaving our way around all the other traffic on the road. Soon the Khakhan’s compound was visible in the distance looming above the sea of tents and yurts. I knew the inns were on the south side of town near the bridge across the Mongol, so we soon turned aside on one of the side streets and made our way to the main south road. We soon came to the inns, little more than bunches of yurts and tents with large corrals. We had to go to a few of them before we found one with a tent we could use by ourselves. It was rather costly but a few dried salmon easily covered it. I had never spent a night in one of the tents before, so it was fun looking over everything and figuring out how it worked. An attendant came by to show us how the smoke hole worked should we wish to have a fire. I enjoyed learning how it worked, but it wasn’t quite cold enough for a fire and since we ate with the rest of the guests, we didn’t need one to cook either.

The other guests were mostly merchants, but there were also some who had come to see the Khakhan. He was supposed to be available to anyone who asked to see him, but in practice he would have them speak to his younger brother, Orduja. From all accounts Orduja was very gracious and conscientious. No one seemed to mind seeing him instead of the Khakhan. I had never heard of him, but it seemed he was a cripple. He had been injured in an accident and was unable to walk. Instead of becoming bitter or suicidal he had become patient and compassionate. I supposed since he was a cripple, he was not seen by his brother as a potential rival.

The next morning we rose early and were getting ready to leave when there was a call at the entrance to our tent. I opened the flap to reveal one of the Khakhan’s private guards or Kashik (they all wore black). He saluted me and told me that the Khakhan wished me to be his guest for a few days until he could see me. Knowing there was really no option involved, I thanked him and told him we would be ready as soon as we got our horses. He said that he had already taken the liberty to get horses for us and if we were ready, he would be honored to show us to our quarters. We gathered up our things and put them on the packhorses, then mounted up and followed the man back toward the Khakhan’s compound.

He led us all the way to the first circle of yurts below the compound. This yurt was somewhat larger than the one I had stayed in before, but otherwise the same. Carlotta had never been in a yurt before, so she enjoyed herself looking all around it. We finally settled into one of the curtained-off sections, and then I took Carlotta out to see the compound. We walked all the way around it, since one was not allowed in it without invitation. Then we wandered about the town a bit so Carlotta could get the flavor of the city. We both enjoyed walking around and watching all the activity. We returned in the evening and a guard brought us our evening meal. I decided to see if there was anything interesting to read on the bookshelf. There were many of the same books that were in the other yurt, but there were also a few different ones. One was a book describing many of the plants in the Khakhanate and giving their names in several languages. Carlotta enjoyed that book. Other books did the same with animals and fish. There was a book about the sea and the currents and prevailing winds. It was apparently a translation of a Koryo book written by one of the Koryo immigrants. There was a book on the laws of the Khakhanate and another book claiming to be a history of the Khakhanate. It began with the unification of the Mongols by the great Chingis. It did seem to stick with the facts as I knew them, but tracing our Khakhanate back to anyone but Kaidu was ridiculous. They made the transition by having the unfortunate Toghon Temur being deposed in favor of Kaidu because he retreated from the lands of the Hanjen. I didn’t understand the need for this forced continuity, but otherwise it wasn’t a bad book and I enjoyed reading it over the next few days.

In the morning we were served breakfast and after eating went out again. I decided to sell some of my salmon stores for something more convenient to transport. I was able to exchange some for silk and some for gold coins. The Khakhan had recently decided to adapt the Hanjen system of coinage and it was gradually becoming more acceptable. The coins were all about the same size and were identically marked with the name of the Khakhan on one side and a depiction of the fifteen horsetails on the reverse. They were made of gold, silver or bronze. The value was set at twenty bronze to one silver and twenty silver to one gold. There must have been a recent immigrant from the Koryo mint.

We continued to wait for a several days, passing the time reading, walking around the city, and even taking rides out of the city to the north and east. It was still fairly mild, and we encountered quite a few burned-out areas on the plain, but we enjoyed the rides very much. I was beginning to wonder if the Khakhan planned to keep us here until winter. Then one evening just after we had eaten, a guard arrived to take me to him.

26
Return to Cuauhnahuac 104–5 K
(NW IO to Cuernavaca, MX, 1472–3)

Nothing had changed in six years; the routine was just the same. Some of the guards’ faces were different, but the old Mongol was still there and once again ushered me into the same room set with two chairs and two cups of kumis. I remained standing until the Khakhan entered the room. He was still dressed simply and still had that intense, probing look. He waved off my bow and urged me to sit down, while he took his seat.

“I’m glad you came here. It shows me you have no reason to think I mean you ill. It might show you have a death wish, but I know you well enough to doubt that. I trust your ‘exile’ was pleasant. I will not put you on the spot by asking details. I know you left the Khanate northwest of Kuriltaibalikh and were confirmed as heading north and west after that, but then you disappeared, only to reappear on a Koryo ship heading south along our northwest coast six and a half years later. There was a report of a deserted village north of the Stikine River that had smoke coming from one of its houses, but local customs prevented its thorough investigation. In any case, you were not seen in the Khanate for five years as ordered, so you have no reason to think I mean you any ill.”

“Thank you, sire.”
“Is there any particular reason you stayed away six years instead of five?”
“It was just more convenient, sire.”

“I know your wife joined you, I don’t know how or when, but I know that she disappeared somewhere among your relatives the year after you left. I’m sure your brother had something to do with that. No need to say anything—since you were just married, I’m glad she joined you.”

“Thank you, sire.”
“I assume you have heard about the premature demise of your esteemed cousin, Khan George?” “Yes, that was most unfortunate.”

“Hardly, but it was polite of you to say so. As you can see, I indirectly took your advice, for it was quite sound advice, and I appreciate it.”

“Thank you, sire.”
“Does your loyalty to your late cousin now fall on my grandson?”
“It does, sire.”
“Even though the child may not actually be related to you?”
“I have no reason to doubt your daughter’s virtue, sire.”

“Of course, you don’t. You don’t know her. I do know her and the only thing I’m certain of is that the boy is related to me.”

 

“That is why some of the tribes believe in matrilineal succession.”

 

“Yes. In some cases it makes a lot of sense. Does knowing that the boy may well not be George’s undermine your loyalty?”

“No, sire. Considering George’s lack of virtue, that would probably be just as well.”
“The continuity of the regime is more important to you than its, shall we say, legitimacy?” “As long as the boy is accepted in Anahuac as George’s heir, he is acceptable to me.”
“Interesting gauge. Now tell me, do you think your cousin Theodore has any designs on his nephew’s title?” “Absolutely not! He used to pray every day for his brother, so that he would never have to be Khan.”

“Excellent. That confirms my reports on him. My daughter doesn’t seem to care for him, but I suspect that’s because he doesn’t bow and scrape to her satisfaction. I regret saddling Anahuac with that harridan, but it is preferable to leaving that patricidal miscreant unpunished. As soon as John is about fifteen, I will end her regency.”

“I heard she has been taking the advice of Nezahualcoyotl. That should hold her in good stead.” “Actually, I told her that if she did not run everything by him, I would appoint him regent instead of her.” “I see. How did you get the people of Anahuac to accept a woman as regent?”

“It’s really quite simple. Nezahualcoyotl is thought to be the regent and she is thought to be a figurehead to honor me. All decisions are apparently made by him.”

“I was wondering how that worked. A very wise arrangement.”
“So, you seem to agree with my confidence in him.”
“Indeed. He is a fine man with a good head and much common sense.”

“Well, his family has a history remarkably free of treachery for Anahuac. I suspect they would have been wiped out long ago had we not intruded ourselves on their affairs. He does have the odd habit of wandering about in disguise to mingle with all sorts of riffraff and find out what they are thinking.”

“I didn’t know he did that.”

 

“I’m not surprised; it took my spies a few years to discover it. It seems rather eccentric, though. What do you think?”

“While it is unusual, it is probably a good way to discover unrest and nip any potential problem in the bud.” “That’s why I have spies. I pay them to keep me informed. It’s rather like an Ordu commander scouting.” “He is very astute and perhaps trusts his own observation more than another’s.”

“The biggest drawback of using spies is getting filtered information. That’s why I employ several spies who work independently and are not aware of each other’s existence. I suppose it might be interpreted to show his lack of guile.”

“He always seemed straightforward to me, with no hidden agenda. Cousin Theodore is like him in that way, but he is more gullible.”

 

“By all accounts he has been more than a father to young John. But after dealing with his brother, who never met a truth he couldn’t bend, I have been keeping a close eye on him.”

“If there is anyone in Anahuac you can trust, it is he.”
“And what about you? Can I trust you?
“I wish no part in intrigue. I only want to live in peace away from all contention, perhaps as a merchant.”

“You will never be a merchant, at least not a successful one. You should return to the army. There you are respected and would likely be made a tumen commander on campaign.”

 

“Campaigns are for the young men and the grizzled veterans. The rest of us are done with it.”

“You know the same thing happened to my uncle, Argun. He returned one day from campaign and refused to go again. He moved away from Khanbalikh and lived simply out on the plain raising a herd of goats of all things. He had been fearless in battle and had personally led charges and ambushes when he was on campaign. It was a shame, he really wasn’t very good with goats, but he was very happy. I hope you find happiness.”

“Thank you, sire.”

“One last word of advice. Since you are returning to Anahuac, be careful of my daughter. She has always been somewhat degenerate and with her husband safely cremated, she now openly satisfies her whims as they occur. Try to avoid her if you can; she may be able to do you harm before I can intervene to save you. I would regret that very much.”

“Thank you for your concern and advice, sire. I will avoid her at all costs if you think that best.” “I do. Should you ever change your mind and wish to go on campaign in the Green Mist, let me know.” “I will, sire.”
“You may go now.” He waved me off.

I was much relieved as I returned to the yurt and Carlotta was even more relieved when she saw me, for she had feared the worst. I told her about my interview and she smiled ruefully and told me that he was right about my not making a good merchant, because I was too fair. Hiacoomes was the same way. He barely survived as a merchant, but he very much enjoyed the life. Perhaps I would also, but she wasn’t so sure. I had to admit I hadn’t really thought the idea through. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but whatever it was I wanted her with me. She jumped into my arms and squeezed me to second that idea.

The following morning we rose early, got everything ready, ate the light breakfast waiting for us, loaded up the horses, and rode down the south road out of the capital. We crossed the bridge over the Mongol River, now shallow, sluggish and muddy. We regained the plain on the far side after passing though the already harvested fields of centli on the river bottom, and climbing back up to the plateau. There were still some dry grasses on the plain, but mostly we came across burned stubble from the summer wildfires. We were on another trade route that led more directly to the site of the Pelican Ordu rather than the trunk road which followed the Mongol River all the way to Murenbalikh, before turning south. The yams were smaller along this road, but were still at the usual intervals, and we generally had comfortable quarters, especially once we reached the Chahiksichahiks towns. Occasionally one of the merchants we encountered would look at Carlotta as if trying to place her, but would usually give up. It had been many years since any of them had seen her and then it was probably only fleetingly, since she was never involved in the trading. No one on this road seemed to recognize me. I didn’t mind at all.

It was early winter when we reached the Ishak River. We turned southeast to follow its course. Five days later, we reached the yam where I had met the Mongol, Nambi, so long ago. I asked about him, but the new keeper didn’t know him. He had taken over from a Dinne about three years before. The next day we arrived at the Pelican Ordu in the early afternoon. It was not far from where it had been when I first visited it some twenty years before. I paused a while drinking the sight in and remembering back to that first time. I had come from the south then and a large force had been practicing maneuvers. This time I could see that about half the tumen was gone, probably hunting, and most of the rest were very busy dressing hides and drying meat strips. The fields, hard by the river, were just stubble. We approached the sentries and asked directions to Aspenquid’s tent. We rode on according to directions and dismounted in front of a bevy of activity.

Mathilde was busily cutting oxen meat into drying strips. A young girl and a little girl were helping her. Aspenquid was spreading the strips on the drying racks. An older woman was working on hides. We dismounted and tied the horses to the post next to the tent. We then approached the maelstrom. It was Aspenquid who first noticed us. He stood stock-still, staring in disbelief, drawing the attention of Mathilde who turned to look, then seeing me, jumped up and oblivious to everything else ran up to me and threw her arms around me.

“Theodore said you would come!” she greeted me. “This must be Carlotta. What a beauty! No wonder you searched the Khanate for her. Welcome, welcome.” She gave Carlotta a bear hug.

 

“There is still plenty of daylight. Let us help you with this work,” Carlotta insisted and got right down to help cut up the meat.

We worked until dusk, getting all the introductions out of the way and catching each other up on the news all the while. The two girls were, of course, Paula and Sarah, aged eighteen and eleven, respectively. The older woman was Simahi. She was probably in her forties, but she looked much older and was very withdrawn. Her struggle to help Taiwit had taken much from her and, not surprisingly, she died that winter. It was almost impossible to engage her in conversation, but she worked hard, almost frantically on the hides as if to escape her thoughts. The girls were beauties and full of personality, just like their mother. Paula would soon be married to a young man in the Ordu. Sarah would be going to visit Sealth and Kudeitsaakw in the spring and stay a few years. Aju was on campaign in the Green Mist, giving Mathilde something to worry about, and the other boy, Bedagi, now fourteen, was still visiting Aspenquid’s relatives and would not return for another year.

I asked Mathilde what she was going to do with all the children gone next spring and she laughed and pointed to her belly, announcing that there would be another one by then. I congratulated her and Aspenquid. They seemed quite pleased by the pending addition to their family. I noticed no one inquired about our lack of family, or even gave Carlotta furtive accusing looks. I was very grateful for that, and I did not mention it either.

We cleaned up after finishing and had a cold meal of some of our smoked salmon and dried berries, quite a treat for everyone. We chatted a bit, then turned in early since all were rather tired. I awakened in the night to hear a quiet sobbing coming from Simahi’s corner of the tent. I started to get up, but could soon hear the comforting whispers of Mathilde and the sobbing stopped. I felt so sorry for the woman, but I didn’t know what to do for her.

The next day we all went back to work on the winter meat and hides. Mathilde and Carlotta had quickly hit it off and were discussing all sorts of things from relatives to household chores. Both would constantly engage the girls and Simahi, but the latter barely contributed. Aspenquid and I talked about the Ordu and I asked after some of the people I knew, especially my Pansfalaya friend, Halbi and his family, but Aspenquid had never heard of them and assumed they had returned home before he arrived. We also talked about travel and things we had seen and hunting, but neither spoke a word about campaign. He was kind enough not to remind me of the way I had annoyed returned veterans in the Panther Ordu when I first visited there some eighteen years before. We continued thus for a few more days, until all the meat and hides were prepared. Then we just relaxed a bit. Aspenquid and I tried a little fishing and we all went for rides into the woods or out on the plain. Carlotta and Mathilde coaxed Simahi into joining them for some long walks and the three of them and the girls worked on clothes for Paula.

The rest of the Ordu returned with their winter meat and set to work on it, so Aspenquid had to go back on duty. I decided it was time to move on. Before we left early one morning, I gave them some of our salmon and berries and they gave us some dried ox meat in exchange. Mathilde urged me not to get exiled again and told Carlotta to take good care of her little brother. We wished Paula the best with her marriage (I didn’t get to meet the boy until years later since he was away visiting relatives and wasn’t expected back until midwinter). We assured Sarah she would love staying with Sealth and Kudeitsaakw and their children. We then hugged everyone and set off to the south. Carlotta loved Mathilde and her family and felt the greatest sympathy for Simahi. She told me that she would be at least as bad as Simahi if anything happened to me. I assured her my family would step in and help, but she said it would make no difference. I realized that it would be the same with me. If anything happened to her, I would also be destroyed. That was not a comforting thought.

We continued down the road along the Ishak until it crossed the trunk road; then we turned west on the latter crossing the river, then continuing southwest, then south with the road. Everything was new to Carlotta, but I had gone this way when I returned from the Ani’ Yun’-wiya some fourteen years before. Little had changed in all that time although some of the yams were better and many of the smaller villages were deserted and in various stages of ruin. I could find few traces of the once-large village where I had met Kopte and his wife. No one lived there anymore. He had been right; the Khanate had forever changed his people.

It was midwinter by the time we reached the Huaxteca lands and I made sure we stuck very much to the trunk road. I had no wish to renew my acquaintance with any rebels. We reached Panuco after a few days and I took Carlotta to see the carving of my grandfather and Smoking Mirror in all their glory. It was still in perfect condition and had obviously been repainted recently, for all the colors were vibrant. Grandfather’s skin was still too pink. Carlotta was awestruck by the artwork. She could not even imagine such a thing and stared wide-eyed at it. I looked around the square, but no visiting merchants approached us. Once I could get Carlotta away, we went to the house of Yquingare to see if he was still here. The owner of the house remembered Yquingare, but told me he had died some years before, and his family had sold everything and returned to the lands of the Purepecha. I found an inn for the night and told Carlotta about Yquingare and Kikthawenund and how they had tried to enlighten me away from my youthful ill-advised idealism.

We continued south the next day (after Carlotta took another look at the carving) eventually reaching Totonaca lands. I decided to tarry a bit so that we would not be climbing into the mountains until spring. We had been going at a fairly leisurely pace, but we took to stopping at all the larger cities along the way for a day or so. The Totonaca cities were almost as colorful as those of the Huaxteca and the people were very friendly and hospitable. We went down to the sea and enjoyed the beautiful beach and the pleasantly cool water. This was definitely the place to be in the winter. We left the coast and turned west once we heard the passes were free of snow.

It was mid spring when we reached the high plateau and the city of Texcalla. We decided to visit the city. It had been rebuilt some time ago and was a very attractive city. The market was quite large, although not nearly as large as that of Tlatelolco. I wasn’t really comfortable in the city because of all the trouble they had been in the past and my own trouble with the miscreant, Aztahua. We had no trouble at all, however, and were everywhere treated courteously. We went on to visit Huexotzinco and Cholula. Their size and their large temples impressed Carlotta. Once in Cholula, we looked for my brother Ignace’s inn and with some trouble found it. It was poorly placed away from the main roads down a side street in the southern part of the city near the old city wall. It was a rather old building showing some signs of wear. We were ushered in by a servant and found the inside very neat and clean if a bit bare. I told the man who I was and he went to get Ignace.

It had been many years since I had seen Ignace. He had come to visit briefly the year before I left to stay in Itsati. He had been a young man, a little younger than I was now, strong and powerful, though impassive and nearly motionless. Now I was looking at an old man, he was about fifty, but he looked older. His hair was white, his posture was stooped, and he was clearly overweight and moved slowly as though he was lame, but he was still without expression. It was something of a shock. Of course, I was a boy of eight the last time he saw me and here I was, a full-grown man taller than he with a wife in tow. We stared at each other for what must have seemed a rude interval to Carlotta.

“Ignace,” I finally managed, “it is good to see you after all these years.”
“You have grown up, Carl. Is this Carlotta?”
“Yes. This is my brother, Ignace,” I introduced them.
“I must get Goa.” He lumbered slowly away.

We waited for an uncomfortable length of time before they both appeared again. If possible, she moved even more slowly than he, looked slightly older and was more stooped. I couldn’t imagine what had happened to age them so much and didn’t know how to find out politely. She also stared at me for a while as if trying to fit the little boy in her memory to the large man before her.

“The eyes are still blue,” she blurted out, bewilderingly.
“Yes, they are,” Ignace confirmed.
“It is good to see you again, Goa.” I struggled hard not to exchange a glance with Carlotta. “Yes, you have grown,” she affirmed.
“He has,” Ignace agreed.
“How are your children?” I hoped to move this conversation along.
“Well, thank you,” they both replied Goa a little behind Ignace.
“Except for Leo, of course,” Ignace appended.
“Except for Leo,” Goa echoed.
“We’re very sorry about Leo,” I was embarrassed that I had already forgotten about his death. “Yes. We were sorry also,” Ignace added.
“Yes, sorry,” Goa agreed.
“We had to disown our daughter, you know,” Ignace offered.
“We did,” Goa confirmed.
“I heard about that from Theodore. Don’t you think that was rather harsh of you?”
“She married a Maya,” Ignace replied evenly, as if that settled it.
“Yes, a Maya,” Goa underscored, almost, but not quite, making a disagreeable expression.

“I served with the Maya on campaign and found them a very warm, generous people although rather set in their ways,” I suggested.

“You are very kind,” Ignace allowed.
“Kind,” Goa repeated.
“In any case, she married a Putun Maya, and they are just like the Chalca as far as I can see,” I tried again. “You are generous, also.” Ignace ignored my point.
“Generous,” Goa agreed.
“Well, John and Theodore are still well?” I changed the subject.
“Yes, as far as we know.” I think he almost shrugged.
“As far as we know,” Goa confirmed.

So it went. It took a while before they actually realized we wanted to spend the night and I insisted on giving them some of the salmon as a gift. They put us in their best room, which was large and bare, but very clean. Their central courtyard had few plants and no flowers. The roof garden had been planted and was taken care of by a very hardworking woman servant who also cooked all the meals. The other servant, a man, cleaned everything every day, admitted guests, and took care of the horses. The two servants seemed almost protective of Ignace and Goa and took pains to make them comfortable. They, in turn, seemed to let them run the inn with no input from them at all. It was all rather strange, but then, they were rather strange. As we left just after noon, Ignace and Goa stood by the door to see us off, but only offered a “good-bye” in return for our best wishes for them and their children. Carlotta insisted that Ignace had to have been a foundling. She could not believe he was related to either Theodore or me. I reminded her that she had not yet met my father.

We stopped at the yam where I had met Aztahua. It was run by a man from Xochimilco named Ixcozauhqui. I immediately suspected him of being a spy and I wondered whose he was. If he was a spy, he asked no probing questions and in fact did not seem particularly interested in us at all. That really made me suspicious of him and I urged Carlotta to be very careful what she said in his hearing. She thought I was being silly.

We left early the next morning and were soon climbing up to the pass between the two volcanoes. Neither was smoking at the time, much to my relief. It was quite windy and cold at the top of the pass, and we were, of course, very glad to regain the tree cover on the far side. We continued along the main road through Amecameca, Chalco, and along the southern shore of the lake. At the western edge of the lake, we took the road that turned south into the mountains. As usual for travelers to Cuauhnahuac, we spent the night in Coaxomulco. In the morning we continued up the road to Cuauhnahuac. We reached the road leading to my house near midday and soon the old compound came into view. We dismounted in front of the house. Two youngsters came out and took the horses. I looked around for a moment, then started telling Carlotta what each of the buildings was. Soon an ear-piercing screech pierced the peaceful scene and Tetl appeared carrying Cuauhtzin.

Carlotta covered her ears while I reached for him. He made all his various noises and spoke a number of Otomi words, as usual. It was as if he had last seen me recently instead of about thirteen years ago. I had thought he would have forgotten me by now, but he was just the same, climbing all over me. Carlotta was amazed by him, but was understandably concerned about his rather large beak. He was very friendly and I finally got her to pet him a bit, but he really enjoyed my preening his head feathers. He could not be coaxed off of me until dark.

I introduced Carlotta and Tetl as soon as I could make myself heard again. I explained that he had been my best friend after Mathilde, and the only one who appreciated my little friend, Cuauhtzin. Tetl bowed formally to Carlotta and assured her it was I who was friend to him, first. He added that one rarely got the opportunity to hear the more colorful elements of the Otomi language delivered with Cuauhtzin’s characteristic vigor. He was honored to consider both of us as his friends and delighted to meet the wife of his friend. Tetl then told me that my father was not back yet, but was expected soon. Theodore had taken his family to visit some friends in Xicalanco last fall. He wasn’t sure if he would return or go on back north to the Blue Sky.

With Cuauhtzin attached to my shoulder, I showed Carlotta around the house. It was a large house in the usual design of rooms around a central courtyard, but the rooms were large and airy with high ceilings. The courtyard was full of plants and flowers many of which were just beginning to bloom in rather stark contrast to Ignace’s courtyard. The entranceway led directly to the courtyard and all the rooms opened only into the courtyard except for the entry hallway and the kitchen, which also opened to the outside. We sat in the courtyard with Cuauhtzin discreetly positioned to fertilize the flowers, while Tetl served us chocolatl and brought me up to date on the staff. As could be expected, some had gone and others had come, but the complement was still intact. He was now the head of the staff.

“My father is in his seventies. Why is he still wandering around the Khanate?” I asked him. “I don’t know, Cacalotl, but he is still vigorous for his age. He looks like he might be fifty.” “Has he changed at all?”
“Not much, but you have.”
“I have?”

“Yes, you have matured since you were last here. You were on campaign for three years, then searched for your beautiful wife, then got yourself exiled for five years. It has been thirteen years, and you were little more than a boy when you left. You should have changed.”

“Well, you’re right, of course. But the changes must have been incremental, because I didn’t really notice them.”

“Your mind was on other things. That’s how we mature; we think of other things instead of ourselves.” “You have changed yourself, Tetl.”
“One only stops changing when one dies.”
“Do you know what happened to Ignace?”
“You knew he was serving the Khanate in the south?”
“Yes, he was somehow helping the governor of the Ben Zah.”

“Not exactly. He was sent to spy on him by the late Khan George. He is not a very perceptive man and was easily fooled by the governor. George eventually caught on and recalled him to Tlatelolco where he publicly humiliated him before dismissing him. He showed no emotion at the time, of course, but aged considerably and seems to have become a bit senile.”

“How could George think to send Ignace to spy on anyone?”

 

“He had been impressed by his impassiveness. He thought it would make it hard to discover him. Of course, the Ben Zah knew anyone he sent had to be a spy.”

“George always thought he was more clever than he was.”
“Indeed. He is not mourned.”
“Do you know anything about Ignace’s servants? They seem to be making all the decisions for him.”

“They were slaves that he purchased and immediately freed. They have been with him for years and would do anything for him.”

 

“There are still slaves in Anahuac?”

 

“No, he found them in the Khanate of the Clouds when he was on campaign there a very long time ago. They belonged to the Muisca.”

“He would never speak of his campaign experiences when I was a boy. I understand now why.” “You know I also went on campaign.”
“Really! When?”

“With your uncle Theodore in the early days of the Khanate of the Clouds. Like you, one tour was enough for me. Unlike you, I was never promoted.”

 

“I thought you told me the Otomi were not warriors.”

 

“No one can live in Anahuac and not be a warrior. The Otomi have had to be warriors, but were rarely successful ones.”

 

“How did you come to work for us?”

“I met your grandfather when I returned from campaign. He took a look into my eyes and asked if I needed work. I was amazed that he even spoke to me, but managed to mumble that I did. He told me that he was building a home in Cuauhnahuac and would need staff to keep it up. He invited me to join the staff and even said I could bring my family if I had one. Of course, I didn’t have a family, but I was very touched by his kindness in a time when I was casting about aimlessly. It was an honor to serve him and the rest of your family.”

“I have often regretted not knowing my grandfather better.”
“He was a great man.”
“I have heard bad things about Khan George’s wife, Chabi. How is she perceived?”
“She is an indecent woman. The Khakhan brings shame on the Khanate by leaving her here.” “Indecent? He was rather vague about her.”
“She takes up with a young man for a time; then he disappears and she takes up with another one.” “Disappears?”
“The rumor is that she has them killed to prevent them discussing her perversions.”
“Perversions?”
“I only know rumors, and it is not proper to repeat rumors.”

“Well, her father warned me to avoid her at all costs. He must have thought she would find me attractive. I’m not really that young anymore, so I may be safe.”

 

“The Khakhan himself warned you about her? He knows and does nothing?”

 

“I’m afraid so. I didn’t think it would be wise to question him about it, but he promises to remove her when the boy is fifteen.”

 

“He is only six. He can’t mean to subject our people to her depredations for nine more years.” “I don’t know. But he knows more about what happens in the Khanate than anyone here, so he must be aware. Perhaps she has only toyed with young men considered to be of no importance.”

 

“Some of her victims have been well-born, but none have belonged to any of the families related to the Khan.” “I suppose once she crosses that line she will be stopped. Why have the people not revolted and done away with her?”

 

“Perhaps you forget what happened to the last revolt.”

 

“But I would think this sort of thing would be intolerable to the people of Anahuac and even the palace guards would join.”

 

“There was a time, perhaps. But the feeling in the Khanate is that there is a spy under every rock. No one dares utter a word against the Khan or his mother. More than a few who spoke out of turn have turned up dead.”

“Really?”
“Yes. It began under Khan George, your uncle. It was suspended during the reign of Khan Henry, but reappeared under the late Khan George. The revolt of the Tenocha and the murder of Khan Henry was all the reason he needed. I am glad I rarely speak my mind among friends and never among strangers.”

“I had no idea. But surely Nezahualcoyotl does not countenance this oppression?”
“I’m afraid he does. But it is a little less arbitrary under him. I think the Khakhan insists on it.” “I’m very sorry to hear about this. I know this was not what Kaidu or my grandfather intended.”

“I don’t suppose it was, but even the best dynasties eventually spawn despots. Moral authority is hard to maintain. One must constantly prove his worthiness to rule. A despot rules by force and only needs to prove that he is strong enough to remove any opposition. It is much less trouble, especially for such as George and Chabi and the like.”

“I suppose I had best stick to my resolve not to even think about such things.”

 

“Meanwhile, you should heed the Khakhan’s warning. I should remind you that Chabi comes here to Cuauhnahuac in the summer.”

 

“The Khans stopped visiting here when Grandfather died.”

“True, but Khan John the First built his own summer palace in Cuauhnahuac before your grandfather died because he found this house too small for his retinue. The summer palace is fairly close by. It would be wise of you to travel somewhere this summer.”

“I rather hoped we could stay here. But I guess we had better plan a trip this summer. Will my father return by then?”

“He should be here any day now.”
27
Cuauhnahuac, 105 K
(Cuernavaca, 1473)

My father arrived about a day later. It was a beautiful day and Carlotta and I had been riding in the hills. The air was fresh and there were flowers everywhere. Cuauhtzin enjoyed riding and was firmly attached to my shoulder. We returned in the late afternoon and the boys took the horses. We didn’t enter the house but repaired to the sweat lodge to clean up (Cuauhtzin sat on top of the lodge and lectured us in Otomi). When we emerged from the lodge, we plunged into the stream and, fully refreshed, went into the house to change. When we reached the courtyard, there was an old man dozing in one of the chairs. I looked closely at the sleeping figure and realized it was indeed my father. It was shocking how much he looked like my grandfather and how little he resembled the father I last saw. We went to our room to change and return. Amazingly, Cuauhtzin remained quiet while my father dozed. When we returned, we went outside again so we wouldn’t disturb him, and walked around the grounds until dinner. Tetl called us for dinner and we returned to the house. My father was no longer in the courtyard but was waiting for us in the dining room. He rose when we entered.

“Karl! It is good to see you. And this must be Carlotta. Welcome to the family, my dear.”

 

“It is good to see you too, Father.” I was rather bewildered by the warmth of his greeting. “I hope we didn’t disturb your nap in the courtyard.”

 

“No, not at all. The only thing that disturbs my sleep in this house is that creature of yours. I never could figure out why Nezahualcoyotl foisted it on us.”

 

“Cuauhtzin is usually quiet at night.”

 

“True enough, but as I get older I find myself also sleeping during the day. Theodore already told me all about your exile. So how was your trip here?”

“Fine. We stopped and visited with Mathilde and Ignace along the way.”
“How is Simahi holding up?”
“Not well, I’m afraid.”

“Taiwit destroyed his health and very likely his wife with the strong drink. I’m grateful he is the only one in the family with that problem.”

“So that’s what it was. Theodore just told me he was ill.”
“I suppose it is a sort of illness. How did you find Ignace?”
“Strange. He seems much older than his years as does Goa.”
“I’m glad they were able to buy that inn. It gives them something to live for.”

“But the inn is poorly situated, hard to find. They can’t have much business and anyway their servants did everything. They appeared to be in their own world.”

 

“I suppose they are. Of course, Cholula is a busy town and I’m sure they get enough business to keep out of debt. Besides, they have always been frugal.”

 

“What do they have against the Maya?”

“The man who denounced Ignace to George was a Maya. Ignace’s judgment has been clouded since the incident. I think George took out all his hostility against you and Theodore on Ignace. It was most cruel and beastly of George. I’m ashamed to admit that I was glad I was too far away to come to his aid when he was poisoned.”

“What did he have against Theodore?”

“Theodore saved his life when he was young. He hated to be in anyone’s debt. He wanted to get back at him through you, but you thwarted that effort, and he hated you both. Chabi is worse in many ways, but at least she doesn’t seem to know any of us well enough to hate us.”

“The Khakhan has warned me to stay away from her. So I’ll have to leave before she comes here for the summer.”

 

“You’re a little old for her tastes, but she might think you a novelty because you look different. She has already sampled most of the tribes of Anahuac.”

“Sampled?”
“That is the politest way to put it.”
“Is it true she murders them when she’s finished?”
“Well, she has them murdered. I doubt if she’s ever done anything in her life that required that much exertion.” “Why does Nezahualcoyotl allow it?”
“Don’t be to hard on him. He is doing all he can in a difficult situation. I would not want his job.” “Why have the people not risen up against her?”
“Don’t let me hear you talk about rebellion again.”

“No. I will not involve myself in any revolt. I just don’t see why such behavior is tolerated in prudish Anahuac.”

“Moral outrage can be expensive. So far those who can afford it have not been offended.”
“Do the lives of her victims count for nothing?”

“If you are walking in the woods armed only with a knife or a bow and come upon one the great bears, do you rush upon it wielding your knife or do you conceal yourself and keep away from it?”

“I would never attack an animal unless I had to do so.”
“How could I forget the reluctant hunter? Perhaps that was a poor analogy. However, should you come upon the bear while he is mauling another man, do you, so poorly armed, attack the bear to help the man or slip away, glad it is he and not you being mauled?”

“I get your point. People are only concerned for themselves. Still, that is shortsighted. If you stand by while others are abused, who will come to your aid when it is your turn?”

“I’m glad to hear you feel that way. Your Ani’ Yun’-wiya years were not wasted. Don’t worry about Chabi; she won’t last much longer. But you should stay out of her sight, just in case. So you spoke to the Khakhan? Did he waylay you again?”

“No. I decided I had nothing to hide and went to Khanbalikh. While there, he called me to visit him. It seems he is favorably disposed toward me now. He invited me to go on campaign in the Green Mist.”

“You have been full of surprises, Karl. I was quite worried about you when you were on campaign, but you turned out to be fine soldier and a natural leader. I never doubted your bravery, but I didn’t really think you’d be good at soldiering. I am very proud of you.”

“You are?”

“Yes. Not just because you did so well on campaign, although that was impressive. I’m proud of the way you behaved afterward. You delayed your quest for your bride to help your sister have enough food for the winter. You went out of your way to save a young man lost in a blizzard. You helped an old merchant you came upon on the road. You steadfastly followed your vague boyhood memory of a special girl and found her. You accepted, without complaint, the cruel fate of exile not long after meeting the love of your life. You bravely faced a difficult journey into a hard country and survived alone for a time. I am very proud to name you son.”

“I don’t know what to say.”
“No need to say anything.”

“I have always been proud of you, Father, except for when I churlishly resented the way people would help me on your account.”

“I understand that. You must remember my father was a legend.”
“You’re one also.”
“It is kind of you to say so, but compared to the Raven I am a mere shadow.”

I wondered how he found out all the things that I had done in the Blue Sky, but I suspected Theodore (who seemed to know everything) told him. It was so strange discovering that my father was personable and pleasant company. He did need to rest quite a bit, but when awake he seemed vibrant and energetic belying his years. He would go on walks and rides with us. He went fishing with us and he just sat and talked to us. He would occasionally have to run off to see someone who was ill, but once he returned and rested awhile, he would seek us out and talk to us. He told us all sorts of things. He told us about his work, his youth, his travels, his parents, brothers and sisters, his wives and children. Carlotta was enchanted by it all. She had so few relatives she even vaguely remembered that she was excited about being part of such a large family. My father knew them all and had an opinion on all of them and didn’t hesitate to express it. Still, it was quite obvious he loved them all no matter what their failings. He spoke lovingly of special memories he had of each of them.

When he spoke of his first wife, his face shone with wonder as if she was the most incredible person he ever met. If she had any flaws, he was blissfully unaware of them. I understood as I listened, for it could have been me talking about my Carlotta. He, too, knew it for he looked at us wistfully as if it helped him relive his first love. He also spoke sweetly of my mother, confirming the image her nieces and nephews had given me last year. He even spoke of Skolaskin, her first husband and his dear friend. He had been so happy for them when they first met and fell in love, because he recognized what they had. He also spoke of his parents and the very special bond they had. His mother often told him about the wonderful time in her life when he had been born while they were all together in exile (except George, of course, who was with Juchi). He was too young to remember the time, but her vivid descriptions helped him see it. He greatly admired his parents’ strength in dealing with their crushing losses of half their children. It was wonderful hearing these things.

One day my father was called away and we had decided to take a long walk around the mountain behind our house along a small trail Tetl had told me about. We brought some food with us, for lunch along the way. There wasn’t too much underbrush along the path and the trees kept it quite comfortably cool. We were going slowly so we wouldn’t miss any of the many colorful birds in the forest. Unfortunately Cuauhtzin would shriek whenever he caught sight of another bird. Carlotta had almost gotten used to his remarkable voice, but was convinced it was because he had made her a bit deaf. Just as we were getting ready to stop by a small stream to eat, we saw a very thin young man sitting by the stream and shivering. It really wasn’t that cold, but I took off my tunic and wrapped it around him. He did not speak but tried to thank me with his eyes. I offered him some of our food and he greedily ate all we offered. With Carlotta’s assent, I gave him all of our food and he ate everything. I then asked him to follow us back to our house and we could get in touch with his relatives.

“No, please, sir,” he begged in heavily accented Nahual, “please leave me here and tell no one you saw me.” “But you are starving here. At least come to our house so we can give you a decent meal.” “No, I beg you don’t worry about me; you have done enough.”
“What are you afraid of? Perhaps I can help you.”
“No one can help me. Thank you for your kindness, but please forget about ever seeing me.”

“As you wish, but if you change your mind, just follow this path in that direction and you will find our house. There you will find shelter and food.”

 

“Thank you, sir.”

We left the man and went on back home instead of continuing around the mountain to encourage him to follow us. I tried to place his accent but couldn’t. He looked much like the people of the Anahuac Valley only a little taller. I decided he must be from the north, one of the so-called Chichimeca tribes. I couldn’t imagine what he was running from that terrified him so much. When we returned, it was just dusk. We cleaned up and had dinner. My father was not back yet. I decided to bring extra food and try to find the young man the next day.

Carlotta insisted on coming along again and I felt that would reassure the young man of our intentions. This time we walked quickly to the spot and reached it well before midday. I could see that he had spent the night there and then had taken the path in the opposite direction. We followed along quickly hoping to overtake him. Around midafternoon I could see that he had struck off the trail toward the west on a very faint trail. I could see that we were close behind him, so I reluctantly decided to continue after him. Not much later we came upon him. He had collapsed in exhaustion right in the trail, not even finding a place to sleep. I picked him up and carried him to a sheltered spot near a trickle of water. I laid him down on a bed of moss and tried to give him some water. He awakened suddenly and looked at me first in wild panic and then in resignation. But I just handed him the bag of food and told him not to worry, I had told no one about him, but I could see he needed more food so I brought it. He ate sparingly and began to cry. It was a disturbing sight, but I tried to comfort him. He was muttering something in a strange language that sounded like a prayer.

“I think you are from the north,” I told him once he had calmed down. “You can get back there along these mountains. Bear a little toward the northwest for a day or so, then turn more toward the north along the chain of mountains. You can cross the roads in the passes at night. I have brought you enough dried meat and berries for ten days or so in addition to the fresher food that you must eat right away. You will have no trouble finding water in the mountains. That should be enough to get you beyond the Valley to the north.”

“You are so kind. It will be enough to get me home. I will make it last. My people live farther north than ten days’ journey. I am Ralamari. Once I get home I can disappear from my enemies. But if I do get there, all my people will hear about your kindness. What is your name?”

“I am called Cacalotl.”
“My name is Tes Disora and I am your friend for life.”
“Make it safely home and consider your debt paid.”
“It will never be paid, but I will do all I can to keep your help from being in vain.”

“Trust no one until you reach home. Take this knife and bow and arrows so you can defend yourself and hunt along the way.”

“You have given me all I need. I will make it. My life is yours.”
“Just live a good long life and name one of your sons for me.”
“It is done.”
“Farewell.”
“May Tatevari shine on all your ways.”
“And on yours.”

I found out later that Tatevari was their sun god. I wondered what a Ralamari was doing this far south and what he was running from, but did not want to ask him to review what had obviously been a nightmare. We turned and went back up the side path to the trail around the mountain and followed it the rest of the way moving as quickly as possible. There was very little light left in the sky when we reached home. We quickly cleaned up and went in the house. My father was waiting for us in the courtyard.

“It seems Chabi’s private guard is looking for a runaway ‘servant’ who is a Ralamari. I don’t suppose you’ve seen anyone like that anywhere, and if you did I’m sure you couldn’t possibly remember anything about it?”

“Precisely.”
“Excellent. I’ll convey our regrets tomorrow. Shall we eat?”
“By all means, we’re both starving.”
“Marvelous appetites you young people have, eating a whole sack of food for lunch.”
“Well it was a long walk.”
“Indeed.”
“There is a rather rude question I must ask you before you go,” he began after dinner.
“A rude question?”
“Yes, but it is important, I think. Is your lack of children by accident or by design?”
“I didn’t know one could design that.”
“No, I don’t suppose you would. But there are things women can take to avoid having children.”

“Your father is quite right, Karl,” Carlotta said. “No, sir, our lack of children seems to be an accident or the will of God.”

 

“I don’t think God wills such things. However, if you wish to have children I may be able to help you. If you do not, I will speak no more of it.”

 

“I don’t know,” I hesitated. “I thought this was just the way it was and I didn’t mind at all.” “I see. Well, give it some thought and talk it over. If you want my help, I will be delighted to give it; if you wish to keep it the way it is, I understand completely.”

 

“What would you do?” Carlotta asked him.

“A very fair question,” he replied. “It is always a risk for a woman to have a child. The Mexica consider a woman who dies in childbirth the equivalent of a man who dies in battle. On the other hand, children can bring you much joy and pride or heartache and disappointment. You must love them and share their joys and sorrows. They help you go on, give you a reason to live when you lose your spouse. They don’t take away from your love for your spouse; your heart expands to encompass them also. As for me, I do not regret having any of my children.”

“I had come to think there was something wrong with me and was so afraid that Karl would think ill of me because I could give him no children. I was so grateful that he didn’t mind at all. Is it really possible that I could have children?”

“I don’t know. I would have to ask you many questions and try a few things, but you are still young and unless you are one of the very few truly infertile, it should be possible.”

 

“Oh sir, would it change our closeness?”

 

“No. If two people truly love each other, children only make them closer. I can see that you two have a special closeness like Metztlaconac and I had. I’m sure that you, like us, will never regret having children.” “Are you so sure?” I was still not convinced.

 

“Yes, but this is a decision you two must make together. My opinion is just an opinion. You need to look into your hearts for your answer.”

We returned to our room and Carlotta became more and more excited about the prospect. I began to see that she really wanted to have children and felt that I had to set my misgivings aside and support her wishes. It was just possible that it would not work, but I was afraid that would plunge her into sadness again. On some level I was annoyed with my father for bringing it up and on another level I was grateful to him since she was so excited about it. That night neither of us slept well. She was too excited and I was too apprehensive. The next morning we went to my father and asked his help. He told me to go amuse myself while he talked to Carlotta. I thought she would be more comfortable with me there, but she was completely at ease with my father and urged me to go fishing. Tetl was kind enough to join me.

“Why did you never marry, Tetl?” I asked him.
“Once you have seen true love, it is very hard to settle for less.”
“You never fell in love?”

“No. I have met women I liked and with whom I perhaps could have made a life, but it would have left me empty, so I chose not to.”

“Wasn’t it lonely?”
“Yes, of course. But it would be more lonely to share your life with someone you did not love.” “I’m sorry you never found someone special.”
“I did, but I didn’t realize it until she was gone.”
“Oh.”

“She heard I had died on campaign and married a friend who was kind to her even though she did not love him. She died in childbirth while I was still away. When I returned, her sister told me how much she loved me and I realized what I had lost. I had only thought of her as a friend and had missed how truly special she was.”

“Did you ever have any children?”

 

“I see you have no illusions about my virtue. Very well, to be honest, I don’t know of any children. But if they couldn’t be with her, I wouldn’t want to know of any.”

“Do you think they would add to closeness between a couple?”
“Yes, I do. You are not so sure?”
“We have been so happy these nine years, that I don’t want anything to change.”
“But you went along with the idea?”

“Carlotta was so excited about it. I think it is just because it is expected of women to have children and if they can’t they are made to feel like they have failed their husbands somehow.”

“It has always been that way. A barren woman is considered cursed.”
“It doesn’t seem fair.”
“It isn’t. After all, sometimes it is the man who is ‘barren’ and that is even more humiliating.” “Well if it is what she wants, I hope father can help her.”
“If anyone can, it is he.”

We caught a few fish and cleaned them before returning to the house. They were cooked for lunch. I sat in the courtyard with Cuauhtzin giving him a good preening while lunch was being fixed. Soon Carlotta came into the courtyard and ran up to me excitedly. It seemed that my father was certain he could help her and was even now fixing the herbs she would have to take. I could see that she was glowing, although she kept looking to me for reassurance. I tried to give her all my support, but I still had some misgivings. If anything happened to her during childbirth, I would be devastated. I was also not too sure it was a good idea to get pregnant right before we went on another trip. But I loved her and wanted her to be happy and it was obvious having children would make her happy.

Around midafternoon my father joined us and gave Carlotta her mixture of herbs and instructions on how to take them. She listened very attentively and wrote down a few things to make sure she had it all right. They went over everything again and she set off for the kitchen to prepare the first dose. My father leaned back in his chair and was soon asleep. I was left alone. I decided to consult my spirit guide. I poked my head into the kitchen and told Carlotta I would be gone for a little while. She smiled, told me not to be too late for supper, and happily went back to boiling the herbs. I left the house and started up the mountain behind the house. It was not particularly high, but the going was a little rough. Once I reached what seemed to be the top (it was hard to tell because it was forested), I sat under a tree, made a small fire, and burned a little nawak’osis. Soon I found myself before my guide and I explained my concern. The guide assured me that a child would be a good thing and I would not regret having one. I had the feeling he was holding something back, but I could get no more from him. I worked my way back down the mountain more resigned than reassured.

After dinner my father told us that Chabi was expected in Cuauhnahuac in a few days, so we should decide where we would go for the summer. Once she was gone he would send word to us, so we could return. He suggested we go either east or west into the mountains for a few days, and then go on north into the Anahuac Valley once she was gone. That way Carlotta could get to see the capital and I could visit my old friends. I told him I thought we could go to Tlayacapan. We could make it to Yauhtepec in a day’s ride, then get to Tlayacapan in another day. This route would miss the larger towns of Tepoztlan and Huaxtepec as well as the more heavily traveled route to the north from Cuautla. After a few days, we could turn north over the mountains and down into the valley. He knew that route and thought it was probably a good one, but warned me that the mountain passes from Tlayacapan to the valley were very rough and there were no yams along that route. We would have to camp out in the open for a few days. Of course it would not be cold in the summer, but we could get rain and flash floods so it would not be without some danger. He had to admit, however, that it would surely keep us well out of sight of Chabi.

We reluctantly decided to leave after one more day. I don’t recommend leaving Cuauhnahuac in the early summer. It is much too beautiful. We found ourselves walking all around and drinking in all the sights and smells. With great difficulty we spent the late afternoon getting everything ready for our trip. When all was ready, we joined my father for our last meal together until fall. We were all quiet during the meal, lost in our thoughts. From the smile on Carlotta’s face, I was sure she was thinking about having a child. My father was concerned about us from his look. I was awash in a flood of memories of this wonderful house, made even more special by my rediscovery of my father. In the end, he broke the silence.

“I’m going to miss you two. It has been wonderful having you here.”
“We’ll miss you also, Father, and this beautiful house.”
“Yes, I’ve always liked it here. My father chose a fine spot and built a handsome house.”
“You know, you remind me of him now.”

“I suppose I do look like you remember him, although he was some twenty years older. What an ancient he was when he died! And tireless—he spent his ‘retirement’ writing volumes. If I live that long, I hope I will have his stamina. However, I already sleep more than he did. I hope I am still here when you return; there is much more I would like to tell you. It is odd, but the older I get the more I remember about my youth.”

“This may seem like an odd question, but did Grandfather ever teach you about our God?” “You mean the ancestral God, with no name? Or Tengri?”
“The one called Deus and Dominus in the old language.”

“Those aren’t names; they are the words for ‘god’ and ‘lord.’ I actually asked him about it one time and he told me what he knew. You may recall that his mother’s father, Peter, was a priest of a related religion that shared the same God. Peter had attempted to teach him the religion, but he was not particularly interested and could only remember a few things. The original religion was called Christian after its founder who was called Christ. I think that was a title. All I know is that there is only a single god; all others are false. When we die we are sent to either a pleasant or unpleasant place depending on our actions during our lives. I think the one called Christ was in on deciding where we go.”

“Is he some sort of demigod?”

 

“I don’t know. There was something about him rising from the dead after suffering some horrible tortuous death. I suppose that made him special.”

“Some sort of elite in the afterlife?”
“I suppose so, but I really don’t know.”
“What do you think?”
“About the nameless God?”
“Yes. Do you venerate him?”

“In a way. My father always said that the way his people venerated God was by doing the best they could in whatever skill they had. He always tried to do so, and so have I.”

 

“What do think about Tengri?”

“Tengri is a similar sort of god, so if one needs a name for God that would do. I’ve never been too concerned about it, but I have asked God to help me with my work each day and thanked him at the end of the day. I just call him Deus when I pray to him.”

“Cousin Theodore and I talked a little about this subject and he said his father knew much about the old beliefs. Did the information die with him?”

“Khan Henry was a good man and he was rather spiritually inclined, but I doubt if he knew any more about the old religion than I do. He spent a lot of time thinking about God and may have reached his own conclusions. I would guess he wrote about it and you may find such a book in the palace library. When you see your cousin again, ask him if such a book exists.”

“I will.”
“Why this sudden interest in such matters, Karl? I don’t ever remember you asking about them as a boy.” “Perhaps I think too much and need to be more busy.”

“You can rarely think too much, but you’ll be busy enough on your trip. I hope the God we have just talked about watches over you and brings you both safely back in the fall.”

“And I hope he sees to it that you are still here when we return.”
We turned in early and rose before dawn. We ate a light meal while our horses were prepared. Father rose up to see us off, and Tetl was holding our horses as we left the house. I had decided to bring Cuauhtzin along on this trip (Tetl told me he would serve as an excellent lookout while we camped) and he was chattering away in Otomi as we mounted up. We made our good-byes and started down the road away from the house just as sky began to lighten in front of us. We soon reached the main road and turned south toward the main part of Cuauhnahuac. We cleared the town before there was much activity and turned southeast on the road to Yauhtepec. The weather remained pleasant, although we were treated to a little sun shower along the way.

We reached Yauhtepec just before dusk and found a small inn just as we entered the town. The inn had room although the keeper was not pleased about accommodating the bird. Understandably, he felt they were very messy. He was somewhat mollified when I showed him the perch on the wheeled stand where Cuauhtzin would spend the night. In fact, he made a copy of it so that he could minimize the mess of any other pet birds that might visit. There were few other guests at the inn and all appeared to be merchants. I noticed they all seemed rather subdued but did not think to inquire about it.

We left the next morning and took the northeast road to Tlayacapan. The road actually turned southeast for a while before returning northeast and ending at the road between Tlayacapan to the north and Huaxtepec to the south. We turned north and arrived at Tlayacapan in the midafternoon after a very pleasant ride. It was a little smaller than Yauhtepec, but we had the choice of two inns. I decided on the one at the northern edge of town. It was a little smaller than the other and just looked more pleasant. The keeper was not at all bothered about Cuauhtzin and commented on how beautiful he was. He then showed us his birds. He had two of the red parrots that quickly shrieked challenges to Cuauhtzin. He replied in kind and I decided to beat a dignified retreat before things got out of hand. The other guests were again all merchants, and they, too, appeared subdued and seemed to be muttering quietly to each other. I asked the keeper if anything was amiss, but he was unaware of any problem and assured me that he never questioned his guests. I could detect no encouragement from the guests, so I decided not to bother them either.

The next morning, the merchants all left early, and most of them headed south toward either Huaxtepec or Yauhtepec, although a few took the road east to Yecapixtla. We planned to stay a few days, so we decided to wander around the town after breakfast. It wasn’t market day, so there was not much activity around the town. We came upon some children playing and Carlotta gave my hand a squeeze. Finally toward the eastern end of town, we encountered an old man sitting in front of his house watching the dearth of activity. He was smiling, so we approached him.

“Pleasant day, today, isn’t it?” I offered the usual banality.
“Usually is this time of year,” he replied.
“Not much activity in the town today.”
“No, but it will pick up on market day, the day after tomorrow, should you still be here.”
“We should.”
“Really? Not many visitors stay more than the night. Are you waiting for someone?”
“No, we’re just resting up for a few days before continuing on our trip.”
“Are you going off the road?”
“Yes. Are you familiar with the way?”

“You’ll find a path just northwest of town. It is a well-worn path, but not wide. It may have been damaged over the winter, I haven’t heard.”

 

“How did you know we were heading off the road?”

 

“The only people who rest up a few days here are heading into the mountains. Usually they are avoiding other people.”

“I see. Do you know why the merchants seem to be upset?”
“I understand that their taxes have been raised significantly.”
“Why?”
“I wouldn’t know. I suppose because that’s where most of the wealth is these days, among the merchants.” “Thank you for your help.”
“Be careful in the mountains; watch for flash floods.”
“We will.”

We returned to the inn. I was surprised that the merchants were being taxed heavily. They were the group that most supported the Khanate. It seemed suicidal to alienate them. I was beginning to fear that there could be some very rough days ahead in Anahuac and wasn’t at all sure we should be going to the capital. I discussed my misgivings with Carlotta, but she wanted to see the capital. We took in the market two days later. We bought some fresh fruit but nothing else. It was really not much of a market especially compared to that in Tlatelolco. The next day we set out at sunrise, found the path, and headed north.

28
North to Tlatelolco, 105 K
(Mexico City, 1473)

We found the path leading off the north road almost a li north of Tlayacapan. It lead us a little north of west into the mountains. It was not a wide path, but it was worn enough to indicate its regular use by at least some foot and horse traffic. We followed the trail all day until it became too dark, then camped in a vague clearing we found just off the trail. The next morning we continued along the path, which began to climb the western slope of the mountain called Tepozteco. The sky had been clear as we started out that morning but soon had become overcast, then quite dark. Lightning began to flash over the mountain; then the rain began. We still had our rain cloaks and hats from our exile and thought this a good time to get them out. I put Cuauhtzin under my cloak. The rain got heavier and before long the trail had become a stream. We pulled off the trail into the trees to wait out the storm. It did not pass. We tried to move parallel to the road, but there was too much underbrush. Finally I noticed a smaller stream indicating a smaller path heading up the slope to the north. We had to dismount and lead the horses, but eventually we came to a clearing with a small house. No one seemed to be there, but the house was in good condition and we settled in for the evening. There was even a small shed for the horses and I was able to bring them in from the storm. Fortunately, I had brought along some grain for them.

The storm continued all night and most of the next day, finally ending just before dusk. We went out once it was over and found the air heavy with all the moisture, but the night was clear and the number of stars visible was astonishing. The following morning we rose early and got the horses ready. It was necessary to walk them down the path because it was still so slippery. Cuauhtzin favored us with a steady stream of directions in Otomi from his perch on my horse’s saddle. We regained the trail and found it deeply eroded and quite slippery also. We decided to continue on foot and got quite muddy along the way.

Finally we came to a more level area on the northern slopes of the mountain and again had to camp under the stars or rather the trees along the path. We started out early the next morning and picked up the pace as we skirted the lava bed stretching northeast from the volcano named after the rain god, Tlaloc. Bleak would be the only way to describe the black, almost lifeless terrain, and at the end of the day we were approaching the little town of Tlacotenco. There was a cleared area around the town for their fields. The town had no inn and no yam. It was little more than a concentration of houses for the people who worked the surrounding high fields. The fields did not look very productive and the houses were quite mean. We rode through quickly while Cuauhtzin hurled invectives. Few noticed, since most of the adults were still in the fields, and the children were on the periphery under the watchful eyes of their grandmothers. The few ancients who were seated in front of their houses, either couldn’t see or hear us or weren’t interested, because they didn’t even look up. At the edge of the town, we found a man returning from the fields who graciously directed us to a place where travelers could spend the night. It was a small but well-maintained thatched hut with a small corral in back. We cleaned off the mud and settled in for the evening eating some of our dried food for dinner. Just before dark, one of the men from the town dropped by to see if we needed anything, but we assured him we were just fine. It didn’t look like the hut had been used in quite a while.

We left in the morning and soon came to the road that turns northeast to Mixquic and Chalco. I wanted to visit Sarah and Tepeyolotl in Chalco since they were expected back by then, so we turned northeast. We passed through Mixquic late in the morning and continued on, arriving at Chalco well before dusk. I went directly to Sarah’s house, just north of the center of the city. I had only been a boy the last time I had been to the house, but I knew exactly where it was. A servant standing by the door opened it for us and took the horses. We went into the courtyard where all the family was gathered. They all stopped talking to look at the intruders and their jaws dropped.

“Cacalotl,” several of them said at once.

“You’re home,” Sarah said, rising heavily and deliberately moving to meet me and give me a big hug. “It is so good to see you again after all these years. This must be my new sister Carlotta. Welcome to the family. Do you remember all your nieces and nephews, Karl?”

“Let’s see.” I looked them over, then indicated each as I named them. “That’s Teypachtli, that is Chipilotl, that would be Icpitl, and here we have Iztacyochitl and John.”

 

“You remember them all,” Tepeyolotl said as he slowly rose to greet us. “Theodore’s reports did not do Carlotta justice; she is stunning.”

It was wonderful seeing them all again, but I was concerned by the slowness of Sarah and Tepeyolotl. Their children all seemed to be in fine shape except for Teypachtli who was visibly limping. Since he had been on campaign, I had to assume he had been injured. I was surprised to see the two girls at home since I assumed they were married at their age. It looked like the younger boys were not going on campaign like their brother had. I didn’t blame them. We cleaned up, then went in to dinner, and they wanted to know all about us, how we met, our exile, and our trip, everything—at length. It was well after dinner before I could find out about them.

It seemed that the trip to the Khanate of the Clouds had been both profitable and disastrous. They had made the long trek overland and had traded successfully along the way. They reached Tamalameque and did quite well there also. They had been convinced to make the journey up to the high plain of the Muisca to get the best prices on the quetzalitzli stones. It had been a very hard climb since they were no longer young (he was fiftytwo and she was forty-nine). They made it up to the plain well enough, and indeed, the prices had been very good, but the return down to the low country had been their undoing. Not long after they started down, rain set in and the trail became treacherous. Both of them fell and were badly injured. Tepeyolotl broke both legs and one of his arms and Sarah broke one leg and her hip. Two of their party were killed. Fortunately they had not lost any of the quetzalitzli, but they did lose some of the other goods they had, including some gold, and several of their horses. When they got back to Tamalameque, their broken bones had to be reset and it left them both barely able to walk. They sold their wagon and most of their heavier goods and came back by sea. Teypachtli joined them just before they left. He had also been injured in a fall and one of his legs was badly broken. Ironically it happened on his way back from campaign, during which he had not suffered so much as a scratch. To top off everything, they had been hit by a storm during their return and almost shipwrecked.

When they finally reached Xicalanco, they discovered the new tax that had been imposed on merchants. Almost half of their quetzalitzli was confiscated rendering the whole trip unprofitable. They were now selling off what they could and moving to the Blue Sky where there was no such tax. Much as they loved Anahuac, they could not survive here under such conditions. They really couldn’t imagine any merchant remaining here, unless he could smuggle and they were too old for such risks.

“Whose idea was the merchant tax?” I asked.

“From what we have heard, Chabi insisted on it since she wasn’t able to get everything she wanted with her income. Nezahualcoyotl had refused at first, but she appealed to her brother, and he overruled Nezahualcoyotl. He, in turn, resigned in protest, but the Khakhan refused his resignation. Until this happened I thought him to be one of the better Khakhans.”

“I wonder what he’s up to.”
“The merchants of Anahuac are grumbling ominously.”
“Do you think they’ll revolt?”

“To be honest, it is not their usual way. They are more comfortable subverting. The younger ones will smuggle, the older ones will bribe officials to miss the most valuable parts of their goods. Eventually the tax revenues will evaporate. Unfortunately, we are too old to smuggle and too poor to bribe, so we’ll have to move.”

“Do you think a lot of merchants will move?”
“If we are prepared to move, you can assume we won’t be alone.”
“Do you think the Blue Sky can support all the merchants of Anahuac?”

“No. But we hope to establish ourselves near the border and act as conduits for goods flowing back and forth between the Khanates. We hope to facilitate the smuggling, even if we don’t actually take part in it directly.” “Will you all go?”

 

“Yes. Chipilotl and Icpitl will stay with us until their husbands get back from campaign. The boys all wish to stay in the family business, and we’ll need their help since we have become cripples.”

“Is there anything we can do?”
“Yes. Stay well and happy.”

We spent a few days with them and I talked to my nieces and nephews individually. They were all quite ready to go north with their parents and were excited about the adventure. I suggested that they would not enjoy living at the mouth of the Thanuge River since it was rather hot, but they were not concerned since all had lived among the Putun Maya in Acalan for a time and it was not so hot nor so humid as that. They were right, but it was rather dry once you got away from the river, and I didn’t think they would like that much. The girls were married to young men from Chalco. Chipilotl’s husband, Cipactli, was almost finished with his tour and should be back the next year. Icpitl’s husband, Huexotl, had only gone last year and she had a long wait. Teypachtli had served with Cipactli and he was unscathed when last he saw him. Huexotl was probably just getting to the action. Both girls were worried about their husbands.

It was hard getting used to the subdued atmosphere in a house that had always been a font of laughter and fun. Sarah always smiled when she saw me, but the smile was wan. Tepeyolotl seemed distracted and withdrawn. Teypachtli also was quiet and withdrawn. The girls were nervous and wistful. Only the younger boys seemed to remember what a good laugh was, but they were self-conscious around the others. I took them for a ride with Carlotta and we really had a good time. I couldn’t interest the others in any distractions. When we left, we gave them some of our smoked salmon and wished them all the best on their trip, and I urged them to stop in on Ignace en route and cheer him up. (I had rather hoped one of them would catch the irony, but it was missed, and Sarah merely sighed and said she would do her best).

I tried to explain the way they used to be to Carlotta as we rode west, but she couldn’t imagine how I could be talking about the same people. In some ways the change in them was harder to take than that in Ignace. At least, I was confident that Theodore would not change. We crossed the southern lake (Xochimilco) on the causeway to Tlahuac and spent the night at a nice inn on the north end of town. The next morning we rose early and went directly to Ixtapalapa arriving there near midday. There Carlotta got her first view of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco beyond. I made it a point to watch her. Her face betrayed every emotion from shock to wonder to admiration.

If possible, the cities were even more beautiful than usual. They seemed to have gotten larger, with chinampas becoming housing and more chinampas replacing the converted ones. Most of the houses were now made of the dull red rock called tezontli, but there were still some simpler reed and thatch houses on the periphery. The multicolored feather banners floated on the slightest breeze like impossibly hued birds hovering in the air. The causeways shone brightly in the midday sun. Yet, something was different. The lake, usually crowded with boats, had only a few. The causeways, usually thronged, showed only a trickle of traffic. The din of the city that could sometimes be heard across the causeway was not perceptible.

We bypassed Ixtapalapa and went straight to the causeway. At the entrance there was now a guard tower, and a whole jagun of soldiers were stationed there. Everyone was stopped and searched for goods. The jagun commander was none other than Chiquatli, my old fellow instructor from the Tlatelolco barracks. He recognized me at once and saluted enthusiastically. He insisted I join him for midday meal and I introduced Carlotta.

“Where did you find such a gem?” he asked.
“I had to chase her all over the Blue Sky,” I laughed.
“She was right to run from a rascal like you,” he mugged.

We sat down to a simple meal and I asked why a whole jagun was guarding the causeway. It seemed that they were there to make sure everyone was searched and all trade goods were taxed. I shook my head in disbelief. He shrugged and agreed that the men were not happy about becoming tax collectors, but those were his orders. I mentioned that I had some smoked salmon I had brought along to give to my cousin Theodore and he said that if he didn’t happen to know me and trust me completely, he would have to assume it was for trade and confiscate some for tax. I must have looked as shocked as I felt, but he shrugged and repeated that those were his orders. He added that the whole tumen was clamoring to be sent on campaign rather than remain and collect taxes. I dropped the subject and we had a wonderful time reminiscing about old times and bringing each other up to date on our activities. It seemed he went on campaign right after I returned, and just got back two years ago. He had returned home to Tlacopan for a year, but decided to return to the army. He now regretted returning from campaign.

“One could be a man on campaign, instead of a vile tax collector. I was sorry I was too late for the Inca campaign. I understand that was quite a fight.”

 

“They were good fighters, and so were the Chimu. But didn’t you have to contend with the bandits in the hills?”

“No, my tumen went on to fight the Aymara tribes. They live around a large and very deep lake southeast of Cuzco. They were good fighters, but not as organized. Each tribe stood by while we conquered them in turn. The worst part of that campaign was the terrain. It was so hard to breathe that we had to move slowly and we were tired all the time. Also, there wasn’t any decent fodder for the horses; we had to bring it in on wagons, slowing us down even more. I don’t think the Khan of the Clouds was very happy with us.”

“It was like that in Inca country as well, but not as bad. Along the coast, however, there was no such problem.” “I never got to the coast. We spent the whole time up in the mountains. I never really got used to it even though it is fairly high right here in Anahuac.”

 

“It is much higher there.”

After our visit, I gave him some of the smoked salmon and he gave us a seal that would make sure we could pass through all the guards unmolested. I wondered if it would also work when I left the capital. We rode across the causeway with no further challenges although there were guards posted at all the drawbridges. As we got to Tenochtitlan, we were looked over, but not stopped once I flashed the seal. I took Carlotta right to the ceremonial center so she could see all the great temples. She was awestruck by them. Their polished stone surfaces shone brightly in the sunlight. The sky blue Tengri temple took her breath away, and she was impressed with the shape of Quetzalcoatl’s temple and the size of the twin temples for Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc. I let her drink it all in and we wandered all over the center. Finally, we left and she wondered aloud why such things had been built. Explaining the human need for excess was beyond me at that moment, I did not respond. We had just left the center when a very dark, raggedly dressed old man approached us.

“Might you consider helping an old man?” he asked wearily.
“Of course, sir.” I was not pleased, but tried to hide it. “What can I do for you?”
“I have not eaten for two days. Have you any food?”

“Yes.” I reluctantly reached into my sack and gave him a piece of salmon and a handful of dried berries. “This sustained me rather well for a few years, and should give you some strength.”

“Such fancy food. It is fit for a khan and you give it to a beggar?”
“I have enough for the Khan. I don’t think he will begrudge his subject a little nourishment.” “His mother begrudges the merchants their livelihood.”
“You should not speak ill of rulers; you could come to harm should the wrong person overhear you.” “Will you turn me in to the guard?”

“No, of course not. Now take your food and eat slowly. I will go to the market in Tlatelolco tomorrow. Should you find me I will be able to give you less fancy food.”

 

“I will look for you there, young master. You have been most kind.”

I was surprised that a beggar was allowed in Tenochtitlan. They used to be forbidden in the city. Perhaps things had gotten worse than I thought. We crossed over to Tlatelolco and I showed Carlotta the barracks where I had trained for the army. Then we went to the palace. The guards at the street level ignored us so we tied our horses to the rail, walked up the stairs, and stood before the guards at the door. I explained that I wished to see Theodore if he was here and identified myself as his cousin. The guards eyed me suspiciously and one went into the palace. To my complete amazement he returned with none other than Tlauquechol. He was still head of the palace guard after all these years. He was delighted to see me and invited us to follow him into the palace. I noticed he was moving more slowly these days, but he started to give us the same tour he had given Sarah, Teypachtli, and me so many years before. He asked after Teypachtli and I told him the truth. He looked grim and shook his head.

“It is an evil business with this woman,” he muttered barely audibly and well out of anyone’s earshot but mine. “She is gone to Cuauhnahuac, isn’t she?” I whispered.
“Yes, but palaces have keen ears.”

I mentioned our horses and he sent a servant to take them into the stables. I asked the servant to bring Cuauhtzin’s cart to us as quickly as possible. He made it just in time. Carlotta loved the tour and wanted me to identify all the statues of the Khans. I noticed that George had been added and was impressed that the artist had been able to capture his annoying smirk perfectly. The image of the Khakhan was quite good also, doing justice to his intense look. Carlotta was made uncomfortable by it. I was pleased to notice that Chabi had not managed to add herself to this group. The boy-khan, John, was also not yet committed to stone. Cuauhtzin was not very impressed, but was happy to be with me so he only muttered occasionally. We moved on to the map room I had so enjoyed on my first visit. Carlotta looked at the other things, but was not interested in the map. I noticed how the southern portion had been filled out since last I looked at it. I looked over the additions my campaign had made and Tlauquechol pointed out where his campaigns had been. He had gone before me and again after me. He, too, had the rank of minghan commander. Sensing Carlotta’s boredom, I pried us both away from the map and Tlauquechol led us into the armor room, where all of Grandfather’s finery was displayed. Carlotta very much enjoyed this room.

When we had seen enough, Tlauquechol led us into the garden to wait while he looked for Theodore. The garden was as beautiful as I remembered it and we walked all around it. No one was in it other than us. Finally Tlauquechol returned with Theodore and a small boy. Theodore had aged considerably. He smiled wanly when he saw me. The boy proved to be John, the Khan of Anahuac. He was a little shy and partially hid behind Theodore while the latter greeted us.

“Cousin Cacalotl, it is so good to see you again. Who is this lovely woman with you?”
“This is my wife, Carlotta. Carlotta, this is my cousin, Theodore.”
“She is almost as pale as you, Cacalotl. Is she from the old land?”

“No, two of her grandparents were shipwrecked off the northeast coast of the Blue Sky. They were from the land of our oldest ancestors.”

“Weren’t they from the far west? How did they get east of us?”
“The earth is round, the far west is the near east.”

He looked genuinely puzzled by that revelation and was silent a while pondering its meaning. At last he brightened and either understood or put it out of his mind. It seemed he had never given that idea much thought, and didn’t plan to start now. I’m sure he must have been told all about it during his education, but he was never exactly sharp. He remembered the boy suddenly and made the introductions. The boy seemed to be anchored to Theodore, like he dared not let him out of sight. He looked up at me apprehensively in spite of my smile, but he seemed somewhat reassured by Carlotta’s smile and was intrigued by Cuauhtzin. Theodore invited us to stay in the palace during our visit and suggested we clean up for dinner since it was rather late in the afternoon. I remembered the way to the bathroom and led Carlotta there while Theodore made arrangements for us to stay.

Carlotta could not believe the size of the bathroom. It had been partitioned for privacy (I suppose), since I was last there, but each part was still large. We cleaned up, put on fresh clothes, and went back out to the garden to wait for dinner. Theodore did not join us in the garden, but a servant came to get us and lead us to the dining room. I was surprised to find only Theodore and the boy there. I asked how his mother was and he told me she had died the year before. He didn’t think she had ever recovered from his father’s death. He told me about his sister’s marriage and the shock of his brother’s death (a real tragedy I agreed with a straight face). I noticed he did not mention Chabi, so I asked about Nezahualcoyotl.

“Oh, since Chabi is in Cuauhnahuac he has gone to Texcoco for a while. He very much enjoys walking around the gardens he planted. Do you remember them?”

 

“Oh yes. I was sent to Texcoco to learn Nahual poetry and Nezahualcoyotl took pity on me and let me spend a lot of time in his garden. It was he who gave me Cuauhtzin.”

“Really? Why does the bird speak Otomi?”
“He apparently belonged to an Otomi before Nezahualcoyotl. He has learned some Nahual, but prefers Otomi.” “Do you understand Otomi?”
“No, do you?”
“Yes. He says some really dreadful things.”
“Perhaps I should confine him to the garden.”

“Oh don’t worry about it. I’m the only one in the palace who understands Otomi, since George died. He knew all the languages and dialects of Anahuac. I just know Nahual, Otomi, and Maya.”

 

“An interesting combination. The language of the ruling class, the language of the farmers, and the language of the ungovernable.”

 

“I suppose you are right about that. My father always respected the Maya, but he did allow them to be ill used on campaign. His military advisors insisted on it, you know.”

 

“It really isn’t fair, but they seem to like it that way. More than once they insisted on closing with the enemy when we could have easily wiped them out with arrows.”

 

“They are a strange, brave people.”

“Indeed. Speaking of your father, I remember you once told me he was given to much interest about God. Did he ever write a book on his thoughts?”
“You know, it is odd you should ask that. I came across just such a book not long ago. I was in a mood to do some reading for a change and looked around in the library. I came upon a book entitled Deus. I opened it and it proved to be some of his ruminations. I think I could find it again. Would you like to read it?”

“Yes, very much.”
“I’ll go see if I can find it after we put John to bed.”

While we were chatting, Carlotta tried to befriend the young Khan. He responded positively, and soon they were talking quietly. Theodore and I reminisced about old times. He kept looking over at the boy as if he expected trouble, but this lessened, and soon he forgot about him. I think he was genuinely enjoying our conversation for he seemed to relax and looked much more like the young man I remembered. Finally Carlotta got our attention and pointed out the dozing boy. Theodore smiled indulgently and picked him up. He told us to wait a while and he would return. We withdrew to the benches away from the table with our chocolatl. I asked her what she and the boy were talking about.

“He is a very sweet boy,” she replied. “I think he misses his mother.”
“I doubt his mother misses him,” I shrugged.
“I can’t imagine any mother not loving such a child.”
“I don’t think Chabi is much of a mother. Did the boy mention her?”
“No. But he responds to mothering.”
“He probably gets it from servants and Theodore, not Chabi.”
“How could two dreadful people have such a sweet child?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps he picked up something from Theodore. Or, perhaps as the Khakhan suggested, he had a father other than George.”

 

“Everything we have heard about her is unflattering, but we don’t actually know anything about her ourselves, do we?”

 

“Carlotta, I hope you are always so kind and generous, but I think when her father, my father, and my brother agree on her perfidy, you can be sure of it.”

“I suppose so, but it doesn’t seem fair not to give her a chance.”
“You should no more judge a child by its mother than a parent by his child.”
“Now that sounds like something Hiacoomes might say.”
“I am flattered.”

Theodore returned after a little while and had his father’s book with him. He handed it to me. It was not large and not long. It was written in Mongol on the local paper and folded in the style of the people of Anahuac, rather than bound in the Hanjen style. The cover had the word Deus in the old language, but the rest was in the Uighur script. I thanked him for it and set it aside so we could chat a bit more before retiring for the night. We talked about various relatives for a while, and then Theodore stood up.

“I usually take John for a ride in the morning before breakfast. Would you like to join us?” “Do you think he’d mind?” I asked.
“No, not at all. He is quite taken with Carlotta and that silly bird of yours. I’m sure he likes you, too.” “Then we’d love to join you.”
“I’ll tell the servants to wake you in time. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” we both echoed.

“Do you think the boy really won’t mind us joining him?” I asked Carlotta as we followed the servant to our room.

 

“He already invited me to join him,” she said with a wry smile.

We got ready for bed and I set the book next to my side of the bed. The bed was just as comfortable as I remembered it. I kept a candle on my side so I could read some of Khan Henry’s ruminations. Carlotta and I talked a few minutes; then she fell asleep. I started reading. Khan Henry was not a good writer; his ideas were a bit scattered and cursorily presented. His point was that Deus was a god of love and the more we loved, the more we were like him. Unless we became like him, we could not join him, but must remain on earth until we changed. Deus did not punish, but could not allow us to join him unless we were loving, like he was. Therefore, we could not hate anyone or hold anyone in contempt or we could not join Deus.

It wasn’t clear what he meant by “remaining on earth.” Perhaps he was thinking in terms of the underworld of the locals. The idea of becoming “like god” was rather unusual also. I didn’t recall ever hearing that one before. I also wondered if he meant the heaven of the old religion when he mentioned “joining” god. Of course, the idea of a god of love who did not punish was rather new. I recalled Grandfather writing about Deus rewarding and punishing (according to his grandfather, Peter)—as my father had just reminded me. I wondered what my father would think of this book. I dozed off still pondering.

29
Chabi, 105 K
(Mexico City, 1473)

The next morning we were up and ready to go when the servant came for us. We followed him down to the stables and waited for the others. Theodore and John eventually joined us and we mounted up. John was excited that Cuauhtzin was going with us and kept looking back to see him as we rode. We rode out of the stable and turned west. We crossed the causeway to Tlacopan getting salutes along the way instead of challenges. We rode around Tlacopan on the north side and into the countryside beyond. We reached the foothills of the mountains and turned back. We kept up a pretty good pace for this ride and could not say much to each other. As we reached the causeway on the return, I looked at the people waiting to be searched. I was surprised to notice no resentful or hostile looks at Theodore or John, only respectful bows. The soldiers saluted snappily and were also free of any resentful looks. I wondered how they all had managed to separate the odious policy from the young Khan and his protector. We returned to the stables and went up to wash before breakfast. Carlotta was amazed that I could find my way around the palace, but I always had a good sense of direction. We were all rather hungry by the time we sat down to eat. John was still excited about Cuauhtzin enjoying the ride and kept chattering about the “bird that rides a horse,” to Carlotta and even smiled shyly at me.

“I’m glad you could join us. You’ve really cheered John up,” Theodore said. “He usually gets depressed when his mother goes.”

“Why doesn’t he join her?” I asked, innocently.
“Well, she doesn’t want to interfere with his education.”
“Couldn’t you go along also?”
“Well, ah no. We think it’s best if one of the family remains in the capital at all times.”
“Didn’t you all used to go to Cuauhnahuac in the summer when you were a boy?”
“Yes, we did, but those were quieter times and the court wasn’t so large and…”
“Of course.” I decided to let him off the hook. “I was just thinking of the boy. I’m glad he has you with him.”

“Oh, well, it’s my pleasure. He is a fine boy and so intelligent. He’s got my brother’s brains. He can already speak most of the dialects of Anahuac as well as Mongol and Maya.”

“But not Otomi?”
“No, I’m not much of a teacher. I’ll have to find someone to teach him Otomi. I think he should learn it, don’t you?”

“Indeed. I have long felt that the Otomi are the backbone of Anahuac.”
“The backbone of Anahuac! I like that. Can I use that expression?”
“Of course.” I was beginning to wonder if he was simple. “What do you teach the boy?”

“Oh, why everything I know. I teach him riding and hunting and how to use weapons. You know he already is almost as good an archer as you are.”

 

“And probably a better swordsman. What else is he learning?”

 

“Oh, Nezahualcoyotl has teachers come in to teach him the languages, but thinks it is too soon to teach anything else.”

 

“Can he read yet?”

 

“He is learning. Christina started teaching him when she visited with us this winter and he is practicing faithfully. She promised to work with him again when she visits in the fall.”

 

“Sounds like you all are doing your best to educate him.”

 

“Thank you, Cacalotl. I wish you could teach him some of the things you know. Remember all the talks we had about the campaigns in the south? You knew so much more than I did.”

“Well, I had a lot of anecdotal information from the participants, but you had a better map.” “I can take no credit for that. You know John likes maps, too.”
“Already we have something in common.”
“I can help John learn to read,” Carlotta interjected.
“Oh, would you?” Theodore asked.
“I’d love to. And you men can go play with your maps.”
“Wonderful. None of the teachers is due to come today, so he’s all yours. Would you like that, John?”

John nodded enthusiastically and Carlotta took his hand and headed for the library. Theodore and I showed her where it was; then, remembering my promise to the beggar, I suggested we first go to the market. Theodore agreed and we left the palace and walked together down the road to the market. I was surprised to see it was much smaller than I remembered and the goods were much poorer. There was still plenty of fresh food and I bought some already-prepared food as well as some fresh fruit. Theodore was puzzled that I was still hungry after all we had eaten for breakfast. Finally I found the beggar waiting near the far end of the market. I went up to him and gave him all the food I had bought. He thanked me profusely and even tried to kiss my hand before he slinked away. Theodore was bewildered and asked me if I knew that man. I replied that I had met him the day before. He remarked that the man reminded him of someone, but he couldn’t place him. We returned to the palace.

We repaired to the map room where we spent the rest of the morning examining terrain, commenting on campaigns, and speculating about the blank areas. We all got together for lunch, then returned to our respective activities again. By midafternoon we were mapped out and moved to the courtyard. I asked Theodore if he had read his father’s book. He admitted he had tried, but couldn’t make any sense of it. I asked if his father had written any more books, since it seemed to me he should have elaborated a bit more. He didn’t recall seeing any others, but invited me to look through the library as much as I wanted. I thanked him, and said I would.

“What do you think of Chabi?” I finally asked him.
“Well, she is nothing like my mother,” he offered.
“Her father seems to think she is rather…loose.”
“He said that?”
“His exact word was ‘degenerate.’ ”
“You mean he knows?”

“He will probably know we went riding together and spent most of the rest of the day looking at the map of the Khakhanate in about eight days.”

 

“You think he spies on us?”

 

“Of course, he does. He knows everything that happens in Anahuac and I suspect in the Clouds and the Green Mist as well.”

“He told you that he had spies in Anahuac?”
“Yes.”
“I had no idea. I wonder if George knew.”
“George had spies also, even in the Blue Sky.”
“But, I don’t understand. Why would George and Kujujuk spy on each other?”
“Because they didn’t trust each other.” I found his naiveté incredible.
“And Kujujuk doesn’t trust little John either?”

“He trusts John as much as anyone trusts a small child. But he doesn’t trust his daughter or Nezahualcoyotl or you. Although I assured him he could trust you and Nezahualcoyotl.”

“I am shocked. I’ve always trusted him.”
“Once he satisfies himself that you are trustworthy, he will trust you as much as he trusts anyone.” “Does he trust you?”
“I doubt it.”
“Do you trust him?”
“Well, I sometimes think I understand him, but then he does things like approving the merchant tax.” “Oh, the merchant taxes. You know Nezahualcoyotl tried to resign over that, but Kujujuk wouldn’t let him.” “Yes, I heard. Do you have any idea why he approved it?”

“No, but I’m sure he had his reasons. You know, the tax really hasn’t brought in much money and the army is unhappy about enforcing it.”

“I heard about the army and my sister told me the tax would fail.”
“Do you think I should say something to Chabi?”

“No, I don’t. You just continue as you have. Take good care of the boy and see that he is well educated. Do not get involved in anything else if you can possibly avoid it.”

“Well, Nezahualcoyotl doesn’t come to me for advice and Chabi barely talks to me at all.” “Does she talk to the boy at all?”
“Not often. He loves her, but she ignores him most of the time.”

“Kujujuk told me to avoid her at all costs. So if you hear she is returning, let me know so I can leave before she get here.”

 

“I will. You know Nezahualcoyotl will be here tomorrow.”

 

“It will be good to see him again.”

Late in the afternoon Carlotta and John joined us. John opened a book and read to us to show off what he had learned. We both praised him profusely and he beamed with pride. We went on to dinner and again Carlotta chatted with the boy while Theodore and I talked about banalities. The boy fell asleep at the table again and we all decided to turn in early and meet earlier the next morning for a longer ride. Once we were alone, I asked Carlotta if she minded spending all her time with the boy. She assured me she very much enjoyed teaching him and was very fond of him. I remember thinking she would be a wonderful mother if father’s concoction should happen to work.

The next morning we rode across the causeway to Tepeyac and past the city into the wooded hills beyond. This trip did take a little longer than that of the day before. Again I looked for any hostility from either the people or the soldiers and found none. We cleaned up after the ride and rejoined for breakfast. After breakfast, Carlotta again took John to the library and Theodore and I went along to look for any other books by Khan Henry. We couldn’t find any, but I did find some interesting books by my grandfather that I didn’t recall seeing at home. One was about governing the Khanate and the other was about the various people in the Khanate. I took both of them up to my room to read in the evening, and then I rejoined Theodore in the courtyard where we sat and chatted. A little after the midday meal, Nezahualcoyotl joined us in the courtyard.

“Where is John?’ he asked immediately.
“He is learning to read,” Theodore answered.
“Wonderful. Who is teaching him?”
“Do you remember my cousin Cacalotl? His wife, Carlotta is teaching him.”
“Cacalotl, it is good to see you again. So you have married! Congratulations. Any children?” “No, not yet. And you? How have you been?”

“I am getting very old and feeling it more. But, tell me all about yourself. What has happened to you since you and my son parted company in Tamalameque?”

At the risk of boring Theodore, I briefly outlined what had been going on in my life the past nine years. He listened intently, nodding occasionally. When I finished, he asked me a few questions about some details of life in the frozen north. Then glancing at Cuauhtzin, he asked if that was the same bird he had given me when I was a child. As if to answer, Cuauhtzin burst out in a stream of Otomi curses. He laughed heartily and for a moment he looked like a much younger man. Then he grew serious again.

“You are still young men and most of your days are before you. I will soon die and, frankly, I am ready to go. I wanted to tell you, Theodore, that I have decided that my youngest should succeed me.”

“But he is just a little older than John,” Theodore protested. “What about your other sons?” “They are all fine boys, but this one is special. I knew it when he was born. He is the one I want to succeed me.” “Did you tell the Khakhan of your wishes?”

“Yes. He agreed to honor my wishes as long as I remained regent. It is my fate to die unhappy with that woman ruining the Khanate of Anahuac.”

 

“You are speaking most frankly,” Theodore admonished.

 

“You are an uncomplicated man, Theodore.” He smiled indulgently at him. “I hope you remain so, in spite of everything. You, on the other hand, Cacalotl, are almost as interesting as your brother.”

 

“If you are referring to my brother, Theodore, he is far more interesting than I am.”

 

“Not to me. I am naming Acapipioltzin regent for my son, Nezahualpili. I would ask you both to watch out for the boy’s welfare. You, Theodore, watch out for him physically. You, Cacalotl, watch out for him morally.”

“But what about John?” Theodore was clearly upset.
“Don’t worry, Theodore. I just want you to think of him once in a while and make sure he is safe and learning his manly skills. I don’t expect you to abandon your nephew.”

“I didn’t mean that, Uncle. What will become of John if you die?”

“We all die, Theodore. At my age it is rather overdue. The Khakhan already has a regent in mind in the event of my death. He is on his way here now. It is his second son, Toragana. He will rule with an iron fist, I’m afraid, but he will get rid of Chabi.”

“Well, that’s a relief, Uncle. Of course, I will be proud to keep an eye on your boy, Nezahualpili. I better go make arrangements for Toragana’s stay, if you will excuse me.”

“Of course, my boy. Anyway Cacalotl and I have much to discuss.”
“Isn’t Toragana a little young to be a regent?”
“Yes, but he’s not too young to be a puppet.”
“I see. Do you think he will step aside when John is old enough?”
“I think so. After all, John is also related to the Khakhan.”
“Among some of the tribes in the north, he would be the Khakhan’s successor, rather than Juchi.”

“Yes, I know. I always found it interesting that they had so little faith in their wives. It speaks eloquently of their full appreciation of how much we are at the mercy of women ultimately.”

 

“I trust my wife completely and without reservation.”

“I also trusted my wife, so. But at the same time she figured in the thing I have most regretted in my life. Knowing how things work in the world, I suspect you never heard of the incident. Have you ever heard of the poet, Cuacuauhtzin of Tepexpan?”

“No, but you may recall, I was not much for Nahual poetry.” I was bewildered that he was telling me something so personal and hoped I could dissuade him by changing the subject.

“That’s true. You preferred to live poetry than to read or write it.”
“Live poetry?”

“Yes, what is poetry but our pathetic attempts to rival nature’s beautiful flowers, streams, mountains, birds, and animals by expressing our thoughts and feelings in words. But you deflect me from my tale. It was not long before the death of your illustrious grandfather that I found myself walking along the shores of Lake Texcoco considering my lack of a wife. I had wandered near the city of Tepexpan when its ruler, Cuacuauhtzin, caught sight of me and hurried out to invite me to visit him. Since he was one of my subjects, I felt it would be rude not to do so. While we sat down to dinner, the most beautiful young girl came out and began to serve us our meal. She proved to be Azcalxochitzin, daughter of Temictzin (a noble Mexica), who was betrothed to Cuacuauhtzin. She was still rather young, so he had not yet taken her to wife. I was thoroughly besotted with her and to my everlasting shame made arrangements to get rid of Cuacuauhtzin. I sent him on campaign and made sure he would be in charge of the Maya tumen. He did not suspect anything until he was placed in charge of the Maya; then he knew and sent back a poem lamenting his fate and my betrayal of his friendship. I can still recite the poem from memory and every word cuts into my heart like a sword.”

He then recited the long poem in Nahual. It was something of a lament over the loss of the things the poet most loved about life, and the betrayal of his friend who hated him and marked him for death, but whom he hoped would regret his actions and mourn him. It ends with the hope his friends would be happy and his expectation that he would take the beautiful flowers and songs with him. Not surprisingly, Nezahualcoyotl’s voice broke a few times as he recited the poem. It was a very uncomfortable moment.

“Do you have any such regrets, Cacalotl?” he asked after he had composed himself again.

 

“I have regrets, sir, but none like that.”

 

“Good, I would not wish them on anyone. I sincerely hope I have been just enough in all my other dealings to mitigate my guilt in this matter somewhat.”

 

“Why do you tell me this, sir? It is none of my business.”

“No, I don’t suppose it is any of your business. Still, I have asked you to look out for the moral welfare of my son, so I feel you should know my worst deed, so that one day, when he is old enough you can tell him, so he learns from my mistake.”

“Why do you choose me to watch out for your son’s moral welfare? To most people I would seem a very strange choice.”

“I have told Acapipioltzin that you are to have access to the boy whenever you wish. He also expressed surprise. I wasn’t sure about you myself until yesterday when you met a nameless beggar in the market as you had promised and gave him food.”

“How would you know about that?”
“Have you never heard how I go about in disguise from time to time?”
“The Khakhan mentioned it to me. You were that beggar?”

“Yes. I have kept an eye on you since you first came to Texcoco as a boy. I saw something in you then, although no one else did. You are a genuinely good man and I want my boy to be good, as well as wise and a fine warrior. Can I count on you?”

“I will talk to the boy whenever I can as you wish.”
“He is a fine intelligent boy. You will find him a joy to talk to.”
“You always had a philosophical bent, sir. Are you familiar with Khan Henry’s little book about Deus?”

“Yes. He and I had many discussions about gods. I read his little book, but felt he needed to elaborate considerably. He was working on just such an elaboration when he was killed. There is an ancient Toltec god called Tloque Nahuaque who is described as invisible as the night and intangible as the wind. He is the creator who invents all life. I have contemplated him and written poems about him for years. I think he is like your Deus. “

“Henry seemed to think Deus was a god of love and we could ‘join’ him if we were also loving. Do you know what he meant?”

“We talked about it. He felt that if one was loving he became like god and thus, when he died, would be with him. He wasn’t clear as to in what capacity such a one would be with him. He seemed to feel your god took personal interest in you, unlike ours.”

“But you only revere this Tloque Nahuaque?”

 

“He is more logical than a god that needs to be fed blood or hearts or flayed skins or even children. A real god should have no needs and can in no way depend on us for anything.”

“My understanding of Deus is that he rewards the good and punishes the evil; he doesn’t actually need anything from us. We are supposed to worship him, but the most important thing is that we are good, not whether we have worshipped him according to some ritual or other.”

“Do you worship him?”

 

“In a way. Grandfather wrote that our ancestors worshipped by doing the best they could in their jobs and offering that as veneration. I have tried to do the same.”

“Your people don’t have much use for priests, do you?”
“We have always found them to be more about power and control than about god.”
“That is so true. Speak about these things to my son. Don’t give him answers, encourage him to find his own.” “I will do my best.”
“Good, then I can die in peace.”
“If you live as long as my grandfather, you have another twenty years to live.”

“Your grandfather was a very special man. Neither of us will live as long as he did. I doubt if even your father will live that long, although he will easily outlive me. He is a very vigorous man.”

Theodore rejoined us and assured Nezahualcoyotl that Toragana would have the second-best room in the palace. Chabi, of course, had the best. But he didn’t feel he could move her out at this point. Nezahualcoyotl asked if that wasn’t John’s room. He admitted that it was, but was sure the boy wouldn’t mind since he would move him into his old room and he would take one of the guest rooms for himself. Nezahualcoyotl shook his head.

“I don’t know how you were ever born into this family.”
“What do you mean, Uncle?”
“Never mind, dear boy, just don’t change.”

We repaired to dinner and Carlotta and John soon joined us. Carlotta was introduced to Nezahualcoyotl and instantly recognized him as the beggar. She told him that his bearing was too grand to be a beggar. He chuckled. John was very respectful and a little shy around his great-uncle, but was pressed to show off his reading. He looked up hesitantly when he finished the passage, a bit of Nahual poetry. Nezahualcoyotl smiled at him.

“Excellent, young man. Every word perfectly pronounced. Soon you will learn to read poetry with feeling. Like this.”

He then proceeded to recite the very same poem in its entirety from memory. It is hard to describe what he did. Suddenly he was a young man, full of vigor again. His eyes danced, his arms and hands moved lightly, easily, and gracefully. The words took on a life of their own. They seemed to explode into images in the mind and the images were moving like music, colorful like an explosion of feathers, fragrant like field of flowers. I could not imagine how he did that or how anyone else ever could. We were all spellbound during the recitation. When he was done, John piped up.

“Can I really do that soon?”
“Yes, you can. Let the words take over your soul. Become the words. Then, you can read poetry.”

We all drifted off to bed in silence. Carlotta asked me why I never had liked Nahual poetry. I suggested that she had married a man without a soul. She laughed and observed that she was certain very few people could recite it as did Nezahualcoyotl. She was right. I read one of Grandfather’s books for a short while, but soon had to turn in.

I don’t know what woke me up in the middle of the night, but something didn’t feel right. I got up and looked around, but found nothing. Puzzled, I returned to bed. We woke up early as usual and went down to the stables to join Theodore and John on their morning ride. When we got down there, we were surprised to see that there were no servants there yet. The sun was almost up, so it seemed rather odd, but I didn’t think anything of it. Suddenly a strange guard came up and asked us to follow him. I asked if anything was wrong with John or Theodore. He said he didn’t know, but had been ordered to get us. We followed him down into the basement area where the execrable George had put together the fire-throwing machine. We passed by the machine and went into a long corridor eventually coming to a bare room.

“You will wait here,” the guard said, closing the door, locking it from the outside and leaving us in the dark. “What do you think this is all about?” Carlotta asked.
“I have no idea,” I had to admit. I couldn’t remember offending anyone recently.

We felt our way around the walls of the room, but found no opening of any kind. The room seemed to be quite clean, there was no smell, and there was nothing on the floor, which seemed to be of stone like the walls. The door admitted very little light, but occasionally we would see a little bit of light flash by, likely from a person passing with a torch. Eventually we sat down on the cold floor to wait. Cuauhtzin did not understand the untimely dark and kept muttering in Otomi. I had noticed that the guard was not dressed as a palace guard, but seemed to have a fancier uniform. I wondered what unit he belonged to. Finally a light approached close to the door and it was thrown open. We were blinded at first and Cuauhtzin let out a memorable shriek.

“You will follow me,” a guard with a drawn sword indicated to me.
“What about my wife?” I demanded.
“She will stay here, with the bird,” he said coldly. “No harm will come to them.”

Carlotta urged me to go and perhaps find out what this was all about. Cuauhtzin very reluctantly let go of my arm and attached himself to her. I kissed her forehead and promised to be back as soon as possible. I followed the guard out of the room. There were two more guards in the corridor. One of them resecured the door and they positioned themselves, one in front and two behind me. They were all three dressed in the fancy livery. I decided not to engage them in conversation, but I was weighing the possibility of disarming one of them and fighting the other two if it proved necessary. We did not go up any stairs but remained in the basement wandering along the corridor and passing many other closed doors. Eventually we came to a door, which showed light inside. It was opened and I was led inside.

I looked around. It was a large room and had thick rugs on the floor and ornate hangings on the walls. There was a chair on a platform at the end opposite the door, but it was not occupied. There was a closed door on the right and a large bed on the left, also empty. I could not imagine what sort of a room this was. The guard in front of me moved around behind me with the other two and we all stood there waiting. Finally the door on the right opened and a slim woman who was perhaps a little beyond my age, but was so dissipated that she looked rather like a tart well past her prime, entered the room. A sword poked me in the back.

“Kneel before the Khan’s mother,” one of the guards ordered.

I knelt down. This was Chabi! How did she sneak back into the city without anyone knowing about it? What did the vile creature want with me? My disgust was such that it was palpable to me and, most unfortunately, obvious to her. Her appraising glance narrowed to one of anger, then twisted to one of fury.

“You dare to find me repulsive?” she screamed in my face.
“Perhaps you misread my expression, I am merely puzzled by your bringing me here this way.” “I am not stupid, wretch. I know disgust when I see it.”
“How could I possibly be disgusted by such beauty, highness?” I lamely tried to protest and bowed humbly.

“Well,” she mused. “You are a strange-looking one. Perhaps I misread your expression. I saw your father once, but he is a repulsive old twig. You are interesting, however. Are you pale all over? You remind me of the tlacaztali, except that you are not quite that pale and you have darker hair. Still your hair is not decently black, it is brown, and your eyes are blue like the tlacaztali. Is your eyesight poor also?”

“No, highness, it is not.”
“Well, let’s see the rest of you.”
“Excuse me?”
“Don’t play the fool. Take off your clothes. Do you need the guards to help you?”
“But that would be indecent.”
“Do as you are told.”

I began to undress reluctantly. I shot a glance at the guards, but their eyes were straight ahead. I felt completely humiliated, but stopped when modesty demanded it. She laughed and demanded that I finish the job. From the icy look in her eye she could not be dissuaded. I removed the undergarment and stood before her with my hands strategically placed. Her expression was growing more impatient as she waved my hands away. I was burning with embarrassment, but I was also furious at being treated in this way.

“Well, perhaps we could get that little thing to salute me properly.”
“Really, madam. You are treating your husband’s cousin like little more than a slave.”

“You fool. You dare invoke my late husband’s memory. The last thing he told me was that he wanted you dead. If you don’t please me sufficiently, I’ll grant his last wish.”

 

“That is disgusting; we are related!”

“Disgusting? What are you, a prudish Mexica? How dare you judge me? From the look of you I won’t find any pleasure with you anyway. Your poor wife must be very frustrated. But don’t worry, when my guards are finished with her, she’ll know what it’s like to have a real man.”

I’m not exactly sure what happened next. I do remember an explosion of fury in my head. Then I dropped to the floor, grabbed some of my clothes, rolled to the left, jumped up and pushed the startled guard at that end into the other two, knocking them into the bed. Then I raced through the door locking it behind me. I could hear her screaming at the guards to get me immediately, but quickly ran in the darkness back to the room where Carlotta was. My unerring sense of direction served me well and I got to the room first. I forced the door open and urged Carlotta to follow me quickly. We ran back to the stable where we found one of the regular servants. He was startled by my lack of dress, but I urged him to get me to Nezahualcoyotl’s room by as secret a route as he could. He led us quickly through a door and up some stairs to a corridor. We then ran down the corridor to a room. He opened the door and led us in.

“Cacalotl?” Nezahualcoyotl looked up from his chair in surprise.
“Forgive the intrusion, sir,” I panted. “Chabi is in the palace and means us great harm.”

“Colotl is a special friend of mine. I’m glad you happened on him. He will slip you out of the palace and over the lake to Texcoco tonight. You will have to leave the bird with me, however, for he will compromise you. I’ll bring him to you as soon as I can get away. Meanwhile, you can trust Colotl completely. Do exactly what he tells you to do. You know where to take them, Colotl.”

“Thank you, sir, and thank you, Colotl. Somehow I will repay you,” I said, scrambling to dress myself properly. “To do the bidding of Nezahualcoyotl is payment enough for me,” Colotl smiled. “Follow me.”

I gave Cuauhtzin to Nezahualcoyotl and he protested piteously, but did not shriek. Colotl took a candle and led us behind a piece of furniture and into a hidden passage in the wall. We went along a narrow, descending passage to a tiny room. He told us he would return for us in the night and urged us to speak only in whispers. Then he disappeared back up the passage, leaving us in a sort of twilight. I couldn’t tell where the light was coming from at first, but eventually noticed that there were small cracks in the wall. I could not see out them but was sure the wall was an outside one. I told Carlotta what had happened, except for the specifics of the threat to her. She shuddered that we had come so close to being killed.

After a while, Colotl returned with some food for us and again promised to be back that night. I asked if Chabi’s guards were looking for me. He replied that they had been looking around, but did not explain what they were looking for. Most of them had left the palace and were scattered about the city. Chabi did not explain her sudden return, but had apparently arrived in the night. Theodore and John had waited for us before going riding, but no one had seen us this morning. When they returned and Theodore saw Chabi was back, he had himself gone to our room to warn us, but saw that we had left our things and disappeared except for the bird whose noise led him to Nezahualcoyotl’s room. He asked about us, but the latter only told him that we were safe. The boy, John, had tried to tell his mother about Cuauhtzin and us, but she ignored him and told him to go learn something. She was clearly furious, but would not say anything about us openly.

That night Colotl returned with some more food. Once we had eaten, he led us down another corridor to another room. At the back of that room was a secret door cut into the wall. He opened it and led us into a low narrow tunnel, which took us for some distance to the south if I still had my sense of direction. The tunnel ended suddenly, and Colotl knocked on what appeared to be a wooden door above. There was the sound of furniture being moved on a wooden floor; then the door was opened and a small ladder was lowered. We climbed into a small house with a thatched roof. A young couple welcomed us into their home graciously. Colotl told us that they could be trusted and we should do as they told us.

The couple proved to be Cuauhpopoca and Teuxoch, both from Texcoco. They were dressed like peasant fisher folk, but were clearly too genteel for the role. He admitted that they had only learned how to fish recently, but could act the peasant quite convincingly when necessary. They would take us over the lake to Texcoco early in the morning. Meanwhile we should rest. We were awakened well before dawn and given some rude clothes reeking of fish to wear. Then all exposed skin and hair was stained dark. We then walked humbly out of the hut carrying our nets and climbed into the acali (the simple boat all the fishermen use). We began paddling down the canal to the lake. Before long, we were challenged by some of Chabi’s guards. We stopped immediately and all bowed humbly. They raised their lantern to peer at us, but the stale fish smell discouraged them from pressing the examination and they waved us on. Finally, we reached the lake and started paddling unobtrusively for the far shore.

About halfway across the lake, we were met by another acali, also occupied by two couples, which quietly pulled up next to us and quickly gave us over half of the fish they had caught. We then continued on to the far shore and they went back to fishing. Soon the sun began to assert itself, but it also revealed a mist hanging a few feet above the surface of the lake. We were able to see and avoid the larger patrol boats, which could not see us. We reached the far shore before the mist lifted. We put in at a small village well north of Texcoco. Cuauhpopoca steered us to a small hut at the southern end of the village. We put in on the beach and began to unload our fish and hang our nets out to dry (we had dunked them briefly before putting in). Carlotta and I went into the hut while the others took the fish to sell.

Before long they returned and, removing the table and rug, revealed another trapdoor to a tunnel. Cuauhpopoca told us to follow the tunnel to its end. There a woman named Cuiauhxochitl would meet us and get us to Texcoco. We changed into our own clothes, but the fish smell clung to us anyway. We followed the tunnel guided by a small torch. It seemed to lead us east, away from the lake, for a while, and then it turned south. Finally we came to hidden entrance among rocks and trees. There waiting for us was a lovely young lady. She smiled when we emerged and introduced herself as Cuiauhxochitl. She led us to through the woods to the south on a path seen only by her to another such hidden tunnel entrance. We entered the tunnel and followed it to the west and south until we came to a door, which led into a tiny room. At the back of this room was a hidden door in the wall, which opened to a narrow corridor. This led us to another room, but we continued on to emerge behind a large piece of furniture in a large spacious room.

“Welcome to Texcoco,” Cuiauhxochitl announced. “You will be safe here. My cousin, Lord Nezahualcoyotl, will come to see you as soon as he can.”

“May I ask you if my brother, Theodore, has anything to do with this escape route?”
“It is best not to ask any questions and repay us by forgetting the route immediately.”
“As you wish, my lady. Thank you and all the others for helping us.”
“It is an honor to help.”

She thoughtfully led us to the washroom and brought us fresh clothes. It took awhile, but we finally got all the fish smell off of us and put on the new clothes. Once we were ready, she told us that we were in the house of Cueyatzin, her father and cousin of Nezahualcoyotl. The house was on the northern outskirts of Texcoco. We could wander all around the house, but it would be best if we did not venture out of the house at this time. All the servants could be trusted and our host would join us tomorrow. She led us to the dining room for a wonderful meal, and then left us in the central garden. We were finally safe.

30

Chabi and Khan John, 105 K
(Texcoco to Cuernavaca, 1473)

We were still relaxing in the garden late that afternoon, when Cuiauhxochitl came to get us for dinner. She was the only member of the family at home at the time. Her father was in Tenochtitlan trying to help a relative. Her brother, Coloticmiztli, was on campaign and was not expected back for a few more years. Her mother had died a few years ago and her father had not remarried. Carlotta asked why such a beautiful young woman was not married. She laughed and said she would marry the next spring. Her betrothed was also on campaign and was expected back by then. We both expressed the wish that he return safely to her. The dinner was excellent; her cook was clearly an artist. After dinner Cuiauhxochitl showed us to our room and left us alone.

The room was large and beautifully appointed. There were a few books in the room, but they were all Nahual poetry. Without the venerable Nezahualcoyotl to recite them, they held little interest for me, but Carlotta read them for a while. I looked out the window across the lake and wondered what was going on in Tlatelolco. Then I looked up at the stars, and the thought occurred to me that it really didn’t matter, and in any case, it was out of my control.

The next morning we rose early and went down to the garden. The many flowers were fragrant and perfumed the air. Cuiauhxochitl joined us and led the way to the dining room. She had no news from Nezahualcoyotl as yet, but her father would be returning later that morning and perhaps he would. As far as she could tell there was no interesting gossip in the Texcoco market, except that Chabi’s guards were looking for someone, but did not say who or even what he looked like.

We were back in the garden later that morning when Cueyatzin came in. He was a large man with huge shoulders. He bore the scars of a man who had been on many a campaign. His weathered face broke into a warm smile in greeting and he apologized for not being home to welcome us properly when we arrived. We assured him that his daughter had done that most graciously and apologized in turn for the intrusion. Once the banalities were out of the way, he told us the news.

“My cousin told me what happened to you. Since you went underground, Chabi’s guards have been searching discreetly all over the palace, all over the city, the lake, and the surrounding cities. Chabi knows that she has overstepped her bounds this time since she is not denouncing you in any way nor admitting to anyone that she has ever seen you. Meanwhile, Toragana has reached Cholula and should be in the capital in a day or so. Chabi still does not know he is coming or why, but should at least know that he is coming soon. Nezahualcoyotl will remain in Tlatelolco until he comes. He told me to tell you that Cuauhtzin is as rude as ever.”

“The poor thing,” I chuckled. “He probably wonders what happened to me. I can’t thank you and Nezahualcoyotl and Cuiauhxochitl enough for all your help.”

 

“It is a pleasure to help you young people and at the same time thwart that disgusting creature Chabi. I understand that Kujujuk has come up with a creative fate for her, but I don’t know what it is.” “I don’t suppose it occurred to him to punish himself for imposing her on us in the first place.”

“I think his intention was to impose her on the hapless George, then give her enough rope with which to hang herself. But the damage she has done to Anahuac is significant, and I don’t know that Toragana is the man to set things right.”

“I don’t know Toragana or anything about him. I suppose I should feel flattered that my life was considered worth more than all the others she used and killed, but somehow I’m not.”

“The relative value of individuals’ lives is a subject for dreamers. You have been on campaign. What is the value of the life of a single scout? If he never comes back, we only trouble ourselves to remember in what direction he went, not who he was or in how much esteem he was held by his family. You’re ‘value’ is, frankly, symbolic. The Khakhan is simply using you as an excuse because you are a famous warrior descended from the great Raven. Toragana was on his way long before anything happened to you.”

“Well, once we are no longer fugitives, I think we will return to Cuauhnahuac for a while and try to stay out of any more intrigues.”
“Intrigue has a way of seeking one out, but I hope you are successful in your plans. Meanwhile, I’ll let you know if I hear anything else.”

We continued going from our room to the garden to meals for another two days. On the evening of the second day, we noticed quite a rocket display over Tlatelolco. It wasn’t any holiday, so I correctly assumed Toragana had arrived and was being given a big welcome. The next morning after breakfast, we were sitting in the garden as usual when Cuiauhxochitl came to us followed by Colotl.

“Colotl,” I greeted him. “Is there any word from Nezahualcoyotl?”

 

“Yes, sir. The speaker has asked me to take you both to his palace. Chabi has been arrested by Toragana and his assistant wants to hear your version of what transpired between you.”

 

“We will come at once. Thank you again, my lady, for your most kind hospitality. And please thank your father for us, again, also.”

 

“It was our pleasure. You must come and visit us again under more pleasant circumstances.”

Colotl led us out of Cueyatzin’s house and down to the lake. There the large personal boat of Nezahualcoyotl was waiting for us. We were swiftly carried down to the palace, which was just south of Texcoco. Servants met us at the dock and led us up the steps to the palace. Upon reaching it, we were led to the washroom where fresh clothes were laid out for us. Once we were ready, we were led to a small dining room to eat a midday meal. When we had eaten, we were led to a large throne room. There was an imposing golden throne at the far end on a platform and to its right, an ornate wooden chair on a lower platform. We were led to a spot in front of the platforms and asked to wait. The servant disappeared through a door behind the throne. Before long, the door opened again and Nezahualcoyotl entered the room followed by a tall, dour-looking man of middle years. He stood very straight and tall was clearly quite fit. Both men took their seats and Nezahualcoyotl turned to me.

“Minghan Commander Cacalotl, son of John the Healer, this is Mahtoe, assistant to Toragana, regent of the Khanate of Anahuac. He wishes to hear your version of what happened to you a few days ago in the palace of Tlatelolco.”

Mahtoe was a Hotcangara name, but he didn’t particularly look Hotcangara. He fixed me with a cold look. I told him everything that happened up to my escape, which I summarized as “getting my wife and escaping from the palace.” When I finished, Mahtoe turned to Nezahualcoyotl, nodded and got up. They both exited through the same door from which they had entered, and shortly a servant came out and led us to a very pleasant balcony overlooking the lake. He told us to wait there. Before long Nezahualcoyotl joined us.

“Well, my boy, all that unpleasantness is now behind you.”
“I hope Mahtoe was satisfied with my testimony.”
“Indeed, it conformed exactly with that of Chabi’s guards.”
“They turned against her?”

“Once they realized her star had fallen, they immediately turned on her. The unit will be issued new uniforms and sent on campaign right away.”

“Cueyatzin suggested that Kujujuk had special plans for his daughter.”
“Indeed. She has been exiled to an island I never heard of. It is called Amona. Do you know it?” “I think it is near Boriquen. As I recall, only birds live there.”

“Well, they may want to move once she settles in. She is being sent there alone with deliveries of food once a week. I don’t think someone like her will last long like that.”

“It seems unusually cruel. Why not just put her to death?”
“No member of the Khakhan’s family can be put to death. She could kill herself, of course, but I don’t think she will. She is furiously writing to all of her relatives to prevail on her father to change his mind. The letters will never be delivered, however. Her fate is set.”

“It will be hard for me to sympathize with her.”
“Indeed. But let us leave her to her fate. I want you to meet my son, Nezahualpili, now.”
“I would love to.”

A servant led a young boy onto the balcony. He was not particularly tall, but looked rather sturdy; he would be a strong, muscular man one day. He had none of John’s shyness, but bowed respectfully to his father first and then to us. His father introduced us and he looked at me appraisingly. I had the feeling he was asking himself what this strange-looking person could possibly have to teach him. But he again bowed graciously.

“It is an honor to meet a man my father holds in high esteem.”

 

“You are most cordial.” I returned his bow. “It would seem you and I are to have some conversation from time to time.”

“I am at your disposal, sir.”
“Why don’t you two get acquainted,” Nezahualcoyotl said. “I’ll show Carlotta around the palace.”

When they left, the boy and I sat down on a bench in front of the balcony wall. I asked him about his studies and he indicated that they were still emphasizing Nahual prose and poetry in Texcoco. I told him about my few days here and how they ended ignominiously. He said that his father implied that I was very well educated elsewhere. I told him about my education, adding that the lack of Nahual literature in it was perhaps a cultural preference rather than a conscious judgment on its merit. He agreed, admitting that he had read some of my grandfather’s books but found them difficult to follow. I assured him that if his education mirrored that of his father, he would be well educated indeed. Then I turned to my entrusted subject.

“What do you understand about right and wrong?”
“That which is wrong goes against good order. That which is right furthers it.”
“What do you consider ‘good order’?”
“The way things should be?”
“How is that determined?”
“By custom, tradition, laws.”
“Are they arbitrary?”
“They shouldn’t be. There should be a greater good served by them.”
“And if there isn’t?”
“They should be changed.”
“How?”
“By the ruler—in consultation with his advisors.”
“What if they do not support the change?”
“If it serves the greater good, then he must do it—alone if necessary.”
“And if the people don’t agree?”
“The ruler still must do what he thinks is right. Otherwise he does not deserve to be the ruler.” “And if the people revolt and depose him?”
“As long as he is certain he did the right thing, he should have no regrets and accept his fate bravely.” “What if the ruler is subject to a higher ruler?”
“He should still try to change what is wrong.”
“Even at the risk of incurring his superior’s wrath?”
“Yes. A ruler’s first duty is to his subjects. He must sacrifice himself for their welfare.”
“What if a ruler thinks only of his own comfort?”
“He should be deposed.”
“What if most of the ruler’s subjects do not want him deposed?”
“One must take a stand on the right whatever the cost to him personally, even if he stands alone.” “What if he endangers his family by such a stand.”

“You always need to weigh the consequences of your actions, but the greater good should always be the final choice.”

 

“How can you be sure what is the greater good?”

“You have to look at the situation from all angles and make your best interpretation of the consequences of your several courses of action. Only rarely can you be absolutely sure, but that is why one studies and learns from those wiser than he.”

“I think you do your father proud. You have answered very well, Nezahualpili. We will talk again.”

He decided to show me around the palace and did so very ably. He was particularly pleased with a high terrace on top of the palace where he loved to study the stars just as his father did. I told him that my grandfather had written in one of his books that the Hanjen believed the stars controlled the destinies of men. He said he doubted that because they are so orderly and man is so disordered, but he was inclined to think that they could indicate natural events—like earthquakes, floods and such. I wondered what my grandfather would have thought of that answer. He also enjoyed the famous garden with the tame animals I had so enjoyed as a boy. It was there that I was reunited with Cuauhtzin who let out an ear-piercing shriek in greeting and promptly flew to my shoulder and firmly attached himself. It was at this point that Nezahualpili looked like a boy, finally, instead of a small adult. He grinned at the bird and began to laugh when the latter lectured him in his foulest Otomi. I showed him how to pet him and Cuauhtzin soon was making his little contented sounds. Before long Carlotta and Nezahualcoyotl joined us. The latter was certain we were here when he heard the shriek.

Nezahualcoyotl sent his son back to his studies and sat with us in the garden for a while. I told him how impressed I was with his son and how little I thought the boy needed my input. He thanked me, but assured me that eventually I would see the need for my help. He asked me if I remembered his first legitimate son and heir, Tetzauhpiltzintli. I knew of him, of course, but I never met him. After I left on campaign, he was accused as being a member of the Tenocha revolt, although he was only a boy of thirteen. He arrogantly admitted being a part of the revolt, called the Mongols vultures feeding on the corpse of Mexica-Tolteca culture and denounced his own father as a lackey of the Mongols and a traitor to his mother’s people. Nezahualcoyotl’s mother, Matlalcihuatl, was the daughter of Huitzilihuitl, the second Tenocha Mexica Speaker, and the sister of both Mocteuzoma and Tlacaelel. Tetzauhpiltzintli’s mother, Azcalxochitzin, was the daughter of Temictzin, half brother of Matlalcihuatl, Mocteuzoma, and Tlacaelel. Nezahualcoyotl, needless to say, was never suspected of having any part in the revolt, but his son was duly condemned and executed by the proscribed method for the ruling classes of Anahuac, strangling. I had not heard of the incident until Theodore joined me on campaign. I remember being surprised that George would have the boy, his own cousin, executed. Of course, that was what he wanted to do to me, but at least I was seventeen years old and a more distant cousin.

“I never met him,” I answered.

“He was very well loved, but did not love well in return. Still, had I been given the choice, I would not have condemned him to death. I always held out hope for his redemption. I suppose he never gave any indication of coming around, but while he lived, I could still hope. A part of me never forgave George for having him executed. But most of me understood the action. Not even the nephew of the Khan can be forgiven for raising his hand against him. At the time I thought it was punishment from Tloque Nahuaque for the evil way I married the boy’s mother. Indeed, at that time he was my only son by my wife and I knew my people would not accept one of my natural sons as Speaker. Then, several years ago, my beloved Azcalxochitzin proved to be with child after twenty years of being barren. It seemed like an appropriate punishment that my line should die out for what I did, and yet at the last minute, it was restored and this wonderful boy was born. He is nothing like his brother. Tloque Nahuaque is not only just, but he is merciful.”

“It would seem.” I didn’t know what to say.

 

“In any case, I believe you and Acapipioltzin and Theodore are the best men to watch over my boy’s training when I am gone. I am also glad you all served together on campaign. That gives you an added bond.”

“I have always had the greatest respect for Acapipioltzin and Theodore, but I could not pretend to be close to either, I’m afraid. You must remember, they both went on campaign as tumen commanders while I was a mere arban commander.”

“Did they treat you like a subordinate instead of a friend?”

“I only served under Theodore at the end, after my tumen was wiped out, but neither he nor Acapipioltzin ever treated me as anything but a friend. I must admit I avoided them most of the time to prevent any apparent favoritism.”

“Yes, I know. Acapipioltzin told me how you stuck out among the Maya like a tree in a field of centli, but made no move to seek him out. He understood why at once and was not bothered at all.”

 

“He doesn’t miss much, you know. Even then, he saw through George’s explanation of the death of Khan Henry.”

 

“He was ahead of me there, but then I was upset about my son’s involvement in the sordid business, and too distracted to question George’s version of the events.”

“There is something else you should both consider,” Carlotta said.
“What?” I asked, as we both turned to her expectantly.

“The boy, John, loves his mother very much. No matter what we may think of the woman, or how little she deserves his love, he loves her, and must be devastated that he will never be allowed to see her again. He was starved for motherly attention when I was with him and now he will think it has been taken away from him forever.”

“What do you suggest?” asked Nezahualcoyotl.
“Could he stay with his aunt Christina? I know he loves her and she must love him also.”

“She is married to the son of the Speaker of Cuauhnahuac,” I said. “John would have to live with her, and it wouldn’t look good for the Khan to live out of the capital.”

 

“It is true,” Nezahualcoyotl agreed. “He could stay with her during the summer, but would have to spend most of the year in Tlatelolco. It is not as though he is ignored. Theodore dotes on him.”

 

“Yes, I know. But when I offered to teach him he looked like he was drowning and I had just pulled him out of the water. Is there no woman who could take an interest in him, mother him?”

 

“If Theodore would marry,” I suggested, “his wife might be willing.”

 

“That is unlikely,” Nezahualcoyotl shook his head. “He spends all his time with the boy. Usually one doting parent is enough. Why do you think he needs to be mothered?”

 

“I don’t know exactly,” she said thoughtfully. “Perhaps it is because his mother apparently rejected him, and he thinks there is something about him that made her reject him.”

“Well, once he is old enough,” I suggested, “he can be set straight on that account.”
“I don’t think he will want to hear that the woman who bore him is a vile animal not worthy of his further consideration,” she retorted.

“I see your point,” Nezahualcoyotl shrugged. “I don’t know what to suggest. I can urge my wife to visit as often as she can, but she dislikes Tlatelolco, like so many of the Tenocha Mexica do. Could you look in on the boy from time to time, Carlotta?”

“I would love to, but I wouldn’t want to intrude. Would Toragana object? Or better yet, does he have a wife?”

“He is not yet married,” Nezahualcoyotl frowned, “and when he is, it will hardly be a love match. As to whether he will object, I don’t know, but I will make some discreet inquiries. Meanwhile, why don’t you both go back to Cuauhnahuac, and I’ll try to get the boy sent there to visit with Christina.”

“Oh that would be wonderful”—she smiled—“Carl, could we visit him while he’s there?”
“I should think so. At least I’ll find out,” I replied.

“Well then,” Nezahualcoyotl rose up, “I’ll go back to Tlatelolco. You can draw horses from the stables when you’re ready to go. But, of course, you are welcome to stay here as long as you like. And Cacalotl, don’t forget to come by and talk to my son.”

“I won’t,” I promised.

Carlotta was as ready to return to Cuauhnahuac as I was, so we went right to the stables and selected two horses. Late the next day, we were riding into my father’s compound. He was gone again, but Tetl was there to greet us. We cleaned up and enjoyed the evening meal. After the meal, Tetl joined us in the garden, and we brought him up to date on all that had happened. He was appalled by my experience with Chabi and fascinated by my escape from the palace.

“I had often heard that people could disappear in the Palace of Tlatelolco,” he marveled, “now I understand how.”

“I’m sorry we must be vague on the exact details of our escape,” I explained, “but we promised to do so.” “Of course” —he smiled—“I can let my imagination fill in the details.”
“When will my father return?”
“One can never be too sure, but he indicated he would be back by the end of summer.”

The following day we received a note from Christina inviting us to visit her and her family. She mentioned that John would be coming that evening, and she wanted us to be there when he arrived. Carlotta wondered if anyone had bothered to explain our sudden disappearance to John. She said that people often ignore children’s worries and they are often unable to express their concerns. I was beginning to wonder how she had become so attuned to children and suspected that perhaps she was thinking too much on the subject. I had the grace not to express these misgivings, however.

We arrived at the Palace of Cuauhnahuac in midafternoon. The servants took our horses and ushered us through the entrance and into the garden. Christina came out to greet us. She had grown into a lovely woman. Her husband, Cuauhcoatl, a small, slight man, followed her and also greeted us warmly. He told us how honored his family was to finally be related to the family of the great Raven. I thanked him for his hospitality and made the usual empty extravagant praise of his family. Actually, the Speakers of Cuauhnahuac had always been quite loyal to the Khan of Anahuac, but otherwise, none of them have ever been remembered for anything. Still, Christina seemed to be quite happy in her marriage and it was not my place to object to the alliance.

“John should be here shortly,” Christina said.
“Do you know whether Chabi has been sent away yet?” I asked.

“Yes,” Cuauhcoatl answered too eagerly, “she was led away kicking and screaming last night. It was quite a disgusting spectacle.”
“We did not see it,” Christina added with some relief, “but Cuauhcoatl’s cousin happened to be in Tlatelolco last night, and arrived here this morning.”

“Yes, he gave us all the juicy details,” Cuauhcoatl added triumphantly, confirming my low opinion of him and making me wonder about his cousin who rode all night just to be first to deliver a bit of gossip. “Did John see his mother dragged off like that?” Carlotta asked.

 

“No, thanks to Theodore,” Christina shook her head. “He whisked the boy away yesterday afternoon and took him to Texcoco for the night. They will be arriving from there this evening.”

“Did John speak to Chabi after she learned of her fate?” Carlotta asked.
“I don’t know,” Christina looked at her husband, who shrugged his ignorance. “Why do you ask?”

“If Chabi talked to him, she may have blamed us for what was happening to her. He may think we are the reason his mother has been sent away forever.”

 

“I never thought of that.” I looked at her with some surprise. “Do you really think he would blame us for her fate?”

 

“In a way, we are responsible, Karl,” she said simply. “If she blames us, then it would make sense to get her revenge on us through her son. After all, he does love her and one day he will be Khan.”

 

“What do you think we should do?” I was startled by the logical progression she had made. “Do you think it is more likely she will have blamed me alone, since she never actually met you.”

 

“No, she will blame me more than you,” she sighed. “You rejected her on my account. She probably reasoned that if it weren’t for me, you would have cooperated and none of this would have happened.” “If I had never known you, my revulsion would have been the same, but without the threat to you, I might have hesitated before taking on her guards.”

“I think Christina should make sure that John does not blame us for his mother’s fate before we see him again.” “Carlotta is probably right, Christina, she seems to understand the boy very well.”

“If you think that is necessary.” Christina looked uncomfortable. “It never occurred to me that Chabi might try to turn the boy against you. She never seemed to pay any attention to him.”

 

“We would not want to further upset John. If there is the slightest indication he blames us, we will slip quietly out and return home,” I said. “Perhaps there is a place where we could remain out of sight?” “Of course.” The fussy Cuauhcoatl led us back toward the entrance. “I’ll show you.”

He took us to a room just off the entrance where we could wait with the door ajar so we could hear what transpired in the entrance hall. Christina promised to find out how he felt about us and let us know right away. We sat down behind the door to await the arrival of John. Once we were alone, I asked Carlotta how she had managed to fathom the mind of a creature like Chabi. She said that she had known people like that before and vengeance was always paramount in their minds. I asked whom she had known who was anything like the miscreant Chabi. She said she preferred not to talk ill of the dead, or dredge up unpleasant memories. I decided not to press the point. After all, she was probably right, and I should be learning from her example. She then asked how Chabi had threatened her. I was forced to explain the threat. She thanked me for trying to shield her from that bit of information and strongly suggested I not consider espionage as a career. I was suitably chagrined.

At length we heard the clatter of a large number of horses arriving. We could hear Christina’s pleasant voice and the ingratiating braying of her husband, but we couldn’t quite make out the words. We then heard Theodore’s hushed voice and John’s tiny voice, but still could not make out any of the words. The procession of muffled voices proceeded through the entrance hall and into the garden well out of earshot. We waited in silence for a long time. Finally Christina came in looking very upset.
“You were right, Carlotta,” she said with tears flowing freely. “The monster did turn him against you. Theodore wants to see you before you go. I must go back now.”

“Wait, Christina.” Carlotta stood up. “Please try to be a mother to him as much as you can; he needs you desperately.”

 

“I will,” she sobbed as she ran back out of the room with her hands over her face.

I was a little puzzled that she took it so hard, but I suppose she was rather sensitive. The truth was I didn’t really care if we had anything to do with the boy or not, but I was bothered that Carlotta was upset. Eventually, Theodore joined us in the room. He looked very tired and older than he really was.

“Thank you for waiting for me,” he began. “I feel it is all my fault. When you didn’t show up for riding, I thought you had decided to sleep late and took off with John. He was a little upset, but I explained that you had probably just overslept and would go with us the next day. When we returned, we were told that Chabi was in the palace and I ran quickly to your room to warn you. There I ran into one of Chabi’s guards ransacking the place and I ordered him out. He left and I gathered your things and took them to my room. Then I went to see Nezahualcoyotl and he told me you were safe and not to worry about anything else. Meanwhile John had tried to see his mother and had been rebuffed as usual, so I took him with me for some weapons practice. He asked if I had found you and I told him you had had to leave suddenly on some personal business. He asked if you would ever come back again and I said of course you would. Things went along as usual until Toragana arrived. He barely got in the door when he announced to Chabi that she was under arrest. Unfortunately, he did this in front of John and I had to hold him back from running to her defense. He fought me fiercely as she was being hauled off. I could only calm him down by promising to take him to see her. I had some difficulty convincing Toragana to let me see her, let alone John. He had locked her in a dank cell with no light while he and Mahtoe questioned all her entourage. Once everyone had denounced her, they were all variously disposed of, the guards to campaign, the servants fired, and the sycophants stripped of all rank. Then he had her dragged up before him in chains and announced her punishment. I had begged him not to let John see his mother like that, but he insisted that the boy witness her condemnation. She screamed and wailed at the sentence and John cried and tried to go to her but was held in check by two guards. She was dragged back to her cell until arrangements could be made to get her out of the city with as little fanfare as possible. It was at this point that Toragana allowed John and me to visit her. She begged me to intercede with her father and brother for her, and I said I would do what I could. Then she told John that he must always remember those who did this to her and repay them. He asked her who had done it and she said, ‘Cacalotl and his wife.’ He was surprised and obviously hurt, but then darkened and said he ‘would get back at them.’ I am so sorry. I should have kept him away from her. I have been unable to convince him he is wrong to blame you, but I will not give up. He must understand that what happened to her, she brought on herself.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I shrugged. “At least it will be some time before I need to get out of the Khanate of Anahuac.”

“If he will listen,” Carlotta said, “tell him I love him.”
“I will.” He slumped a little.
“We better go now.” I got up.

We left the palace and found our horses waiting for us, held by a servant. We mounted up and he handed us a torch to light our way. I thanked him and we returned home. We did not speak all the way home. I don’t know what Carlotta was thinking of, but I was thinking of a way to suggest to her that we permanently move to Itsati and live among sane people. I only hesitated because it would be too cold in the winter for Cuauhtzin, and I didn’t want to leave him behind any more. I began to think perhaps we could live there in the warm months and farther south in the winter, perhaps the Alligator Ordu. That night Carlotta clung tightly to me and cried over the loss of the miserable little brat. I just held on to her and eventually we fell asleep.

31

Deaths of My Father and Nezahualcoyotl, 105 K
(Cuernavaca and Mexico City, 1473)

The next morning we got up as usual and went about our business, with me studiously avoiding any subject that might upset Carlotta and her looking rather resigned and heaving deep sighs from time to time. I suggested a walk around the mountain and she readily agreed and packed up a small lunch for us. It was a beautiful warm summer day. The sun dappled through the trees. A light breeze would caress us occasionally. Cuauhtzin challenged every bird we encountered keeping him very busy. Insects buzzed; frogs croaked; birds chirped and sang. We drank it all in silently. We found a nice spot by a small stream to sit and eat our lunch. After eating, we sat a while before continuing.

“Do you know what I’ve been thinking of?” Carlotta asked suddenly.
“No, I can’t imagine,” I replied hoping it had nothing to do with a certain miserable child.

“I’ve been thinking about the wonderful exile we shared in the north. It reminded me that as long as I have you with me, I don’t need anything or anyone else.”

 

“I knew what I was doing when I fell in love with you at first brief sight so long ago,” I said as I squeezed her tightly.

 

“I can still see the handsome little boy with the light brown hair turning back to look at me,” she said dreamily. “I’m so glad you came back for me.”

 

“It took me long enough, but you haunted my dreams until I did. Only you were even more beautiful than I remembered.”

“And you turned into such a big strong man! I could only just see that little boy in you.”
“Can we go away somewhere together?”
“You know, I would like to meet your Ani’ Yun’-wiya relatives.”

“Have you been reading my mind? I was just thinking about going back to see them and introduce you. We would have to spend the winter farther south, however. It gets too cold there for Cuauhtzin.”

“Just so we’re there next spring.”
“We could manage that if we travel slowly enough, but why next spring?”
“That’s when the baby is due.”
“What?” I was thunderstruck.

“Your father knows what he is doing. We will have a baby in the spring. If it is a boy, I want to name him for your father.”

“And if it’s a girl?”
“Then we’ll name it after your mother or one of your sisters.”
“Why? What about your relatives?”

“The only reason we’re having this baby is because of your father and I really didn’t know my mother or my relatives except for Hiacoomes, of course.”

 

“I can’t see naming the child after my mother, she was such an unhappy person. But I could see naming her after my sister Mathilde.”

“A wonderful choice! I want to visit her on our way to Itsati.”
“How soon shall we go?”
“As soon as your father returns. I want to tell him myself and thank him for making it possible.”

She was radiant on the way home, but my mind was racing in all directions. I wondered if she would have a difficult pregnancy and if she was in any danger from it. I wondered if we should even travel if she was with child. Wouldn’t it be hard on her? What if my father was delayed and we couldn’t leave until winter? The path through the mountains to the coast was difficult in the winter. Would it be too hot for her along the coast? Suddenly I noticed she was singing a little song in a strange language.

“What is that?”
“A song my mother sang to me when I was a baby. It came back to me when I realized I was with child.” “Is that language of your grandfather’s?”

“Oh no, only they spoke that. It is my mother’s language, Wampanoag. You know Hiacoomes thought that your old language sounded something like my grandfathers’ language.”

 

“The written language? Where did he hear that?”

 

“When Theodore was visiting us, right before Hiacoomes died, they were talking about the home and language of my grandfathers.”

 

“They were? What did they say?”

“Well, as I remember, Theodore asked if they were from the east or the southeast and Hiacoomes said from the southeast. Then Theodore asked if their language was anything like your written language and he said a few words in it. Hiacoomes said he could detect a resemblance, although he thought their language was not quite so guttural.”

“Guttural?”

 

“Yes. He thought my grandfathers’ language was smoother, easier on the ear. He wondered if Theodore was mispronouncing the language since it was mostly a written language.”

“Well, from what my grandfather wrote, it was the only written language in the old country, but everyone spoke another language that was nothing like it. We have lost the spoken language, but still have the written one. He did say that our second name, Waldman, meant ‘man of the forest’ in the spoken language. That would be ‘vir selvae’ in the written language. Other than that I don’t know anything else of it.”

“Well, Theodore seemed very interested in it.”
“I wonder what that was all about. There are times when I wonder if I even know him.”
“He is a very interesting man. Do you suppose his wife knows what he’s up to?”
“Maybe we’ll visit them while we’re at it.”
“I’ve always wondered what she was like.”
“I only met her briefly right after they were married. She seemed like a very nice person, not at all devious.” “I wouldn’t call Theodore devious. I would just say he keeps his own counsel.”
“I’d call him devious.”
“Well, he is your brother and he has been more than a little helpful to you.”
“Oh yes. But he is still devious.”

We arrived back late, but Tetl had kept dinner for us, and he was delighted to see we had returned in such a good mood. Carlotta told him the news and he congratulated us warmly. He also had some news about my father. He had taken ill and was on his way back. I thought it odd that he would travel if he was ill, but Tetl said that the note did not elaborate on his condition, it only said that he would arrive back in a day or so, and he was ill. I asked Tetl if he thought it was serious, and he had to admit my father had never mentioned he was ill in a note before, so he was a bit concerned. I suggested we send a note to Theodore, but Tetl admitted he had no idea where Theodore might be. Of course, he did have a way of materializing whenever I really needed him.

It was dusk the next day when my father arrived. He did not ride in but was brought in on a wagon. The people that brought him—who insisted on helping in very broken Nahual—tenderly carried him to his bed. It turned out they were Yope of all things. I had no idea my father was in the south. He whispered to Tetl instructions on making a mixture of herbs for him. Then he motioned one of his companions close to him and whispered something in a very strange tongue. The man rose up and motioned his companions outside. They set up a vigil just outside the house. Carlotta and I sat on either side of him and held his hands. He dozed fitfully for a while.

At length Tetl returned with the medicine and I lifted my father up so he could drink a little. He drained the cup and I set him back down. After a few minutes, he looked a lot better and he sat up in the bed. He asked us to help him to the door. We took him to the door; then he pushed us away and stood on his own. He opened the door and spoke to the Yope in their language. They all laughed and cheered and started off in the dark. He then closed the door and collapsed into my arms. I carried him back to his bed amazed at how little he weighed. He rested a moment; then he spoke to us.

“I had to do that for the Yope or they would have stayed there fasting until I died, and then for seven days after. They’d have never made it home in such a weakened state, and they would not have accepted our hospitality to recuperate. Now listen carefully, I don’t have much time. Give my notes to Theodore when he arrives and show him the bundles I brought back with me. When I am gone, I want to be buried between Metztlaconac and Paula. There is enough room there and Tetl knows the spot. I want to leave the property to Tetl with the understanding that my children are always welcome here. I urge you two to leave Anahuac and never return.”

“You know? How?”
“Theodore sent me word.”
“But how could he know? These things just happened. Where is he?”
“You should know by now not to ask how he knows things. He is very near and may yet arrive in time.” “Oh John,” Carlotta said with tears streaming down her face, “we had such good news for you.” “I know, my dear. I saw it in your eyes a while ago. I am very happy for you.”
“But father, is it safe for her to travel? Is she in any danger for the pregnancy?”
“Theodore can tell you those things when he gets here. I am very tired now.”

We again took up our places holding his hands and Tetl fussed about bringing us things to eat and drink. My father’s face softened in his sleep and he looked so peaceful. Not long before dawn, I woke up with a start and saw him looking above him with the tenderest smile on his face. His chest was just barely moving, so I knew he was still alive. Tetl had fallen asleep at the foot of the bed and Carlotta smiled wearily from across the bed. Suddenly, he heaved a deep sigh and was gone. The smile remained. I wondered what he thought he saw. I closed his eyes and awakened Tetl. He looked like he had lost his best friend. He begged me to let him prepare everything for the burial. I agreed with much relief since I had no idea what one was supposed to do. Carlotta and I went out of the house to watch the sunrise. I noticed that the wagon was still there with all of father’s bundles on it. I decided to leave it that way for Theodore. Because of the mountains, the sunrises are not particularly dramatic in Cuauhnahuac. Indeed, it is light for a while before one can see the sun poke over the mountaintops. But while we quietly watched, a lone horseman approached up the path. The sunlight behind him made it hard to recognize him. Finally he drew near enough that I could make out Theodore.

“I am too late?” he asked getting quickly off his horse.
“Only by a little,” I replied. “He left some notes for you and those bundles on the wagon over there.” “I knew if I stopped to help that man, I’d be late,” he sighed. “But what can you do? That’s my job.” “He would never fault you for that.”
“No, but he would have been furious if I hadn’t helped the man.”
“What was the matter with him?”
“He is seventy-eight years old! What do you think was the matter with him?”
“But Grandfather lived to be ninety-five.”

“True, but Grandfather was very unusual. Seventy-eight is a very good long life. I only hope we live so long. By the way, Nezahualcoyotl died yesterday.”

 

“He did?”

“Yes. That’s why I wasn’t here yesterday. I was with him until he died. Then I rode madly here, but had to stop in Xochimilco to help a man who was badly injured by a fall from a horse. I had him under control by late last night; then I came on here.”

“You must be exhausted.”
“Is Tetl taking care of everything?”
“Yes, he insisted.”
“Good. I will take a last look and then go get some rest. I’ll see you two at dinner.”

Once he disappeared into the house, Carlotta clung to me and began to cry softly. I held on to her gently and let a flood of memories sweep over me. At that moment, I realized that I would indeed be leaving Cuauhnahuac and never returning again. My last link to this place was severed. I was glad I had been able to bond with my father the previous spring. It was good to feel a connection with him at last even now that he was gone. I had always felt untethered, like I had no roots ever since my grandfather died. Now I had roots, but they did not hold me. I could freely move on. How, I wondered, would I be able to fulfill my promise to Nezahualcoyotl and how could I attend his funeral? No doubt Theodore would have some ideas. I led Carlotta to our room and we lay down and took a nap. When we awakened it was midafternoon, and I suggested we go to the sweathouse. Carlotta agreed and we fired it up and took a good sweat bath. Cuauhtzin waited on top of the sweathouse for us but had remained very quiet all day. We plunged into the cold stream afterward and toweled ourselves dry. We went into the house and waited in the garden.

After a while Theodore joined us and bid us follow him. We went out of the house and went to a small cleared area just beyond the flower garden behind the house. There a fresh grave had been dug and father’s shrouded body lay next to the grave. Tetl and Theodore lowered the body with ropes and stood quietly for a moment. He moved to stand at the foot of the grave.

“God of our fathers”—he broke the silence—“accept your servant John who has always done his best at his chosen profession to honor your name. More than once he has been your instrument of healing, always he has poured himself out in service to your people. Welcome him now into the rest of those who stand at your right hand for all eternity. Help me live up to his shining example and truly honor his memory.”

He moved aside and motioned me to the spot he had vacated. I moved to the foot of the grave. No one looked at me, but I knew I was expected to say something. I searched my mind for a moment.

“God of our fathers,” I finally said