From the PREFACE....
SKYLADY GAVE unto us the meanings of all the words that She
let Fall. She taught us to clearly enunciate the calls for Fear and Feast. And to
differentiate between Fly Here, and Fly There.
In the Firstdays, there were the one Corvidae only, and all spoke in the one
tongue. Later, they became the Dark Corvidae, and the Grey, and those of mixed
sheens. Each species was best suited, according to the lands that they conquered
and overflew. Yet as the price of their expansion and specialisation, their
bills began to speak in ways that the ancestral ones would not understand, and so
we became estranged to each other.
It is prophesied that one day, all the Corvidae will remember the heritage that
Skylady gave, and learn to understand each other again. This will be in the time
of the White Corvid.
From the chapter popularly known as MUTTERINGS of the DARK CORVIDAE.
There are certain calls with special meaning. They may only be uttered with
certainty of purpose, and are held holy; it is considered dishonourable to cry
them in jest. For if spoken to you, one must obey without question. Except
under some obvious circumstances, such as fighting over food or territory, it
is also dishonourable to ignore these commands. There is no matter of pride or
precedence in these words: a fledgling may so speak to a powerful adult.
A common call is the non-specific "Danger!" Most oft used in larger groups,
perhaps feeding on the ground. It has the connotation that each creature
hearing it must ascertain the source of that danger before making the
appropriate reaction. The simplest of which is to jump into the air and
follow any otherbird that appears to be flying away decisively. Though one
may do better to be very still and very silent: to look around instead of
perhaps flying hastily into the source of the danger.
Some calls are more specific. One such word could be translated as "Fly away
from me." That is the literal sense anyway. There are no shades of meaning
admitted to this call: the purpose is simply to evoke the immediate, specified
reaction. The whys and wherefores are to be ignored in the moment of staying alive.
Retribution for a false utterance would come later, but in truth, no sensible
bird would use this word as a delaying tactic for their own purposes.
Survival can often depend on trusting the cry of another, and to break trust
is to put oneself and one's species out of that game.
It might be used by a scout flying higher and ahead, and those following would
immediately wheel-about: no doubt about the direction of escape. It is also used,
if necessary, by a parent to an overstayed youngster at the nestsite. The meaning
is clear, and though usually said quietly and in gentleness, it means that it is
time to leave. "Hraerken! You are no longer a nestling. With respect I say: go now
and beat your own skyways." There is no meaning of physical direction here.
Lastly, it may be used by a mate, or a prospective mate who does not welcome
the attentions. There is also a sort of game, a ritual here. A testing and a
bluff, if the attentions are really wanted. Perhaps it is a means of establishing
independence, or demonstrating strength of spirit to a lover who has become too
possessive or overbearing.
Some talonscratched notes in the margins of the above scroll...
How can a solitary scribe explain, for I have never fully understood these
matters. Though I have myself been humbled unexpectedly. It goes like this, at
least among the younger ones, and from my own memories. For convenience, I will
tell this usage of it in the context I have seen most often, though it has no
gender-specific implication; I have also seen it the other way around.
She will suddenly scream this word at him, often as he approaches to a landing
beside her, and he, startled, will instantly fly off. She may choose to follow,
or to call him back at any moment. Or she may choose to remain silent. And he
may choose not to stop flying away: to ignore a calling-back. So really, it can
be a double-bluff. I once chose not to hear a calling-back. To this day I
still wonder if I was the greater fool than she....
So I wandered long, and into a pure and beautiful wilderness. In my pride and
self-imposed exile. Disdaining company, disconsolate, yet telling myself it was
better this way. Perhaps it was, for thus one day I wandered into another's domain.
Of she that I could both love and respect. I cannot rightly speak of her; in any
language, I have no words of depth enough to tell of the beauty of spirit she
carried in her glossy black breast.
That time, I was roosting, half-dozing quietly beside my beloved of many moons
passing; we had shared our feeds found in summer drought and in winter snows.
This is a Word of Command. She gave it then, and for the truth and honour of our
communion, I had no choice but to obey that imperative absolute. She flew straight
off, forward in the direction she had been quietly gazing. I swept my wings
forward powerfully, flipping over backwards and half-rolling, head down to gain
airspeed, and was streaking off in the opposite direction in less than one
heartbeat. In three wingbeats I was up to full speed, levelling out. Not slowing,
but just to maintain manoeuvring space below. I would not slow until she called
an all-clear, or until I was out of her sight. And, caw-dammit, I'd give her a
flight to catch up with too! But I gave an aggrieved and querulous shriek; I do
not like being so tested by any lover. And surely we knew each other too well
and deep for those mere rookish games?
The sound of the single gunshot was flat, hard, ugly, in the purity of our
wilderness. I dove straight downwards with one great backsweep. There was no
other sound. No hissing of cruel pellets rending the empty air just above me.
And no other call.
Now I understand why she chose that word, out of all the others she could have
used, and why she flew in the direction she chose. And this is why I say I have
no words to describe her spirit.
So now I wait for the night. Before I leave this place, I will beat the
boundaries, and at each quarter of the wind, I shall call her name and proudly
sing what I knew of the tale of her days. I tell it to the nightsky filled with
stars. Among our kind, this is our only form of memorial. It serves equally for
the passing of life or of love.