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Khakhanate Book I - the Raven


Khakhanate
Book I
The Raven
Copyright © 2007 Thomas Lankenau
For Deena
Chapter 1
Cuauhnahuac
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.
Since there is no written family history for me to build on, I’ll have to start at the beginning. Most of you
have noticed we do look a bit different from our fellow Mongols, although that difference is diminishing with
intermarriage. Our ancestry is, strictly speaking, not Mongol. There never really was a tribe called the Mongols,
but the Tungus tribes that coalesced into the core of what became the Mongols could be given first priority to
the title. As time went on, many different tribes were taken into the Mongols even though they were not related.
Some, like the Tatars, only provided women and children, but others came in fully and freely or were recruited
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