We hope you enjoy this excerpt of the first three chapters from Catherynne M. Valente’s latest book and the first in the A Dirge For Prester John series, The Habitation of the Blessed, out now from Night Shade Books.
John, priest by the almighty power of God and the might of our Lord Jesus Christ, king of kings and Lord of Lords, to his friend Emanuel, Prince of Constantinople: Greetings, wishing him health, prosperity, and the continuance of divine favor.
Our Majesty has been informed that you hold our Excellency in love and that the report of our greatness has reached you. Moreover, we have heard through our treasurer that you have been pleased to send to us some objects of art and interest that our Exaltedness might be gratified thereby. I have received it in good part, and we have ordered our treasurer to send you some of our articles in return…
Should you desire to learn the greatness and Excellency of our Exaltedness and of the land subject to our scepter, then hear and believe: I, Presbyter Johannes, the Lord of Lords, surpass all under heaven in virtue, in riches, and in power; seventy-two kings pay us tribute… In the three Indies our Magnificence rules, and our land extends beyond India, where rests the body of the holy apostle Thomas. It reaches towards the sunrise over the wastes, and it trends toward deserted Babylon near the Tower of Babel. Seventy-two provinces, of which only a few are Christian, serve us. Each has its own king, but all are tributary to us.
—The Letter of Prester John,
Delivered to Emperor Emanuel Comnenus