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Book I

The Raven

Copyright © 2007 Thomas Lankenau

Smashwords Edition

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For Deena



71st Year of the Khanate

(Cuernavaca, Mexico, 1440)

Cuauhnahuac is a beautiful place. The climate is temperate, none of the searing heat of the central desert, the bitter cold of far north, the humidity of the coastal areas or the damp fetid smells of the city. The air is fresh, lightly tinged with the delicate but changing scent of many flowers and warm during the day and cool and silken at night. The view is of green hillsides dotted with colors and mottled with light and shadows during the day and shining ethereally in the muted light of the moon or barely visible in the dim light of the endless stars on moonless nights. Yes, I picked the perfect place to end my days. And yet, in all this perfection, I am, for the first time in my life truly alone. Of course, I’ve been by myself many times, but I was always on a mission or a journey to or from somewhere and consumed by that purpose. Now, while I am not exactly by myself, for there are servants and family about, I am alone. I have nothing to do and nowhere to go. I suppose this is the inevitable fate of anyone who lives long enough, achieves an exalted position, and has the grace to step down before he becomes senile, but that is small comfort. There is the occasional visitor, but I have outlived almost all of my contemporaries, and the few remaining are too decrepit to travel all the way down here. My grandson drops by when he comes here to get away from the capital much like I used to do, and he’s gracious enough to ask my advice as though he really needed it. Very rarely I see my other children and grandchildren, and they always bring their children with them. Last spring, my youngest son, John, came back from the north with a new wife and to everyone’s surprise because of her age, she delivered a healthy baby boy in the winter. He then told me that he had decided to name the child Karl after me. I warned him about the consequences, but he insisted it was time for another Karl. So I started thinking about the past and the many events that brought me to this place at this time. I reread all the books in my library in their many strange languages, including the now-fragile book in this ancient language. Finally it came to me—I can have one more mission in my life! I can set down my story for my family in this ancient tongue so no strangers can read it. It will enable me to relive my life, and I needn’t worry about anyone taking offense, to my family’s detriment. And who knows, perhaps one of my descendants will be moved to carry the tale forward, for I know there is still much adventure ahead in this wonderful new world. Maybe the tale will interest this newborn Karl when he is old enough, and maybe he will outdo me, but I doubt it.

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