Yucatan – Land of the Mexica
The 10th Year of the Reign of Her Immortal Majesty Empress Tatho of the House of Tah
The small group of warriors ran through the jungle, camouflaged in the colors of their surroundings. Their destination loomed ahead of them, the pyramid towering high above the tall trees around it.
A hand signal from the leader slowed the pack. Silently, the men hunkered low to the ground.
They fanned out quietly as they crept near the city wall. They scanned the area for alert sentries, but the only figure in sight was the sleepy form of a lone guard. No problem getting in.
One of the stealthy figures clapped a pipe to his lips. A thin dart shot out, embedding itself in the sentry’s neck. The sound of his rotund body hitting the floor was dangerously loud in the silence, and the chair on which he drowsed clattered as it collapsed beneath his unconscious bulk.
Wincing at the noise, the leader gestured for the warriors to move from concealment and take position against the adobe wall that lay between them and their destination. They flattened themselves against the wall to avoid detection, but there were no patrols in sight.
Their clothes blended with the jungle around them, small bows held nocked and ready in their hands. They looked every inch the native, complete with dark skin dyed by the juice of the gerre nut.
At a signal, the warriors sprinted through the open gate, ignoring the prone form of the unconscious guard as they spread out inside the wall.
No guards awaited them inside—all were at the temple for the sacrifice. Their way was clear.
A door opened from a nearby hovel, a young boy emerging from within to chase a small into the street. He stopped dead at the sight of the warriors, his eyes widening as he opened his mouth to cry out in surprise.
The huge blond warrior clamped a hand down over the child’s mouth, the other hand striking the back of his head hard enough to render him unconscious. Even the slightest clamor could spell doom for their mission.
The small body of the unconscious boy was tied, gagged, and stowed inside a nearby hovel in seconds. He would be found, eventually.
The warriors waited in silence, eyes scanning the area to find any signs of life. All was calm. Cautiously, they slipped between the houses. Their steps led them towards the pyramid dominating the city.
The hovels soon turned to simple houses, which eventually became fancy mansions. The wealth of the city was evident here. They searched for a particular house, one they had been told offered secret access to the pyramid. The native had died screaming, but he had given them the information they needed.
Finding the house they sought, they pushed through the flimsy door to enter the empty building.
It was the only building on this side of the city built against the massive pyramid that was their destination—their only way in undetected.
The balcony on the second floor of the mansion gave them a clear view of the temple’s interior.
The sacrifice was about to begin, and they had little time to waste.
The priests officiating the ceremony were bedecked in elaborately ornamental robes. The features, skulls, bones, and diverse paraphernalia that made up their costumes were meant to be threatening to the masses huddled at the steps of the pyramid, but to the warriors huddled on the balcony the outfits just looked foolish.
The only truly threatening part of the costume was the sacrificial weapons wielded by the priests. The stone blades were dyed red with the blood of the thousands of victims whose lives had bled out on the temple altars.
It was said by the superstitious Mexica that the weapons were possessed by spirits and demons, or by the souls of those sacrified to Huitzilopochtli—the bloodthirsty deity of war worshipped by these savages. The Mexica god thirsted for blood: Mexica blood, Mayan blood, any blood that would flow red and bright down the stone stairs of the temple.
Of the many gods worshipped by the Mexica, only this deity demanded sacrifice. This was the god that led them to battle, that required them to die a glorious death at the hands of their enemies, and that demanded that they raid the Atlantean mainlands to capture beautiful women to sacrifice.
The Mexica were warriors at heart, and they died as bravely as they fought. Despite the fact that they faced superior technology, weaponry, and tactics, they continued their incursions into the kingdom of Atlantis. On those rare occasions when they did manage to haul off victims for their sacrificial altars, the women and children were never seen or heard from again—a fate shared by those that attempted a rescue.
Most would have considered this a suicide mission, but the women captured by the latest Mexica raid were no ordinary victims. This, too, was no ordinary group of warriors sent to retrieve the captives.
A high priest emerged from the shadows within the pyramid, strutting onto the balcony overlooking the crowds below. Blood stained his ceremonial robes, a testament to the hundreds that had met their end at his hands.
A signal was given by their commander, but it was unnecessary. They all knew they had precious minutes left.
The basement room they entered was dark and dusty, cobwebs covering everything after long months of disuse. It made the perfect exit.
The heavily muscled blond warrior grunted as he wrestled a massive casket away from the far wall, revealing a hole barely large enough for him to fit his broad shoulders through. He stepped aside to let the rest of the group enter the hole first, guarding the rear as the warriors crawled for long minutes through the stifling darkness around them.
Nothing but scuffs, grunts, and curses were heard as the small party inched forward. The warrior in the lead—a short, rat-faced man—held a small device in front of him. The palm-sized object emanated a thin beam of light, illuminating just enough of the tunnel for him to see where he was going.
“Move quickly,” the little man breathed as he crawled. “The light won’t last forever.” He hoped it would be enough.
The tunnel ended abruptly, a blank wall of earth and stone barring their way.
“Watch where you’re going, idiot,” the little man cursed. The warrior immediately behind him had planted his face into the leader’s unmoving posterior, an experience neither relished.
“Signal a halt next time, Traga,” the man following him complained.
“And how am I supposed to do that, Derchon?”
“Shut up and get on with it.” The third voice was commanding. The man to whom it belonged gave orders, and all obeyed.
The lead warrior’s fingers scrabbled around the blank wall of stone impeding their passage, and he smiled as he found what he was looking for.
He adjusted the device, twisting the small lens at the front to shine a pinpoint of light directly at a particular spot on the wall.
For long seconds, nothing happened. Then, with the ponderous sound of stone grinding on stone, the wall slid to one side—revealing an empty corridor beyond.
“Secret passages,” the man named Traga grinned broadly, “you’ve got to love them.”
One by one, the warriors slid into the torchlit hall, checking their weapons and adjusting their costumes. Their eyes darted up and down the various passages, scanning for any movement.
The one with the commanding voice spoke again. “They must all be at the sacrifice. We have little time left. Move.”
“Yes, Captain.” The one named Derchon saluted, motioning for the rat-faced man to lead the way.
They held their weapons awkwardly, unaccustomed to wielding the crudely-made clubs, spears, and arrows tipped with stone. Their bows were the sort used by the locals for hunting—nothing a true warrior would carry—but they would suffice. All of the poorly-crafted weapons were a necessary part of the ruse.
The weapons, garments, and body paint worn by the warriors bore the markings of the Tepaneca, the ancient enemies of the Mexica. Their garments were the bright purple favored by the Tepaneca tribe, and they had dyed their skin with the dark brown gerre nut native to Yucatan. The eagle masks covering their faces obscured their obviously Atlantean features—allowing them to pass through the wild lands of Yucatan in their native disguise.
The leader pictured the map of the pyramid in his head. The outer courts were no doubt filled with the bloodthirsty natives watching the sacrifice, and the outer temple would be empty of all the priests. The inner temple would be guarded, but the attention of the entire city would be on the high priest as he prepared for the sacrifice. Their objective lay near the pinnacle of the pyramid—a long climb that they had but minutes to make.
Thankfully, the stairs and corridors were empty, and the warriors began to relax as they realized that it could be easier than they had expected.
A shout behind them reminded them of where they were. An arrow took the single guard in the throat before he could do more than cry out in surprise, and he went down soundlessly. The thump of his body hitting the floor was eerily loud in the silence of the corridors.
Seconds dragged painfully as the group waited for more guards to flood the corridor, but the silence was unbroken.
“We got lucky, but let’s get this over with while we’re still undiscovered.”
The leader’s voice was the only command the men needed, and they quickly sprinted up the stairs—careful to remain quiet despite their speed. They had to reach the apartments at the top of the stairs before they were discovered, and the body on the floor would alert any passing guards to their presence. With nowhere to hide the body, it was a matter of time.
A door at the top of the stairs was flung open, and a priest leapt headlong down the stairs towards them. The manic grin on his face indicated massive quantities of peyote flowing through his veins. He had no doubt heard them running up the stairs, and the primitive spear he carried was poised to impale the rat-faced man through the heart.
The little man in the lead was too fast for the befuddled priest—but just barely. He threw himself against the wall, the spear grazing the outside of his thigh as he smashed into the hard stone with bone-jarring impact.
The priest’s momentum carried him down the stairs, past the little man still wincing from the pain, and straight onto the spear carried by the man in the second rank. Blood burbled from his lips as he fought to cry out, but the stone blade through his throat prevented him from making noise as he slipped lifelessly to the floor.
A quick glance at the rat-faced man showed the leader that the wound wasn’t serious, and he signaled for the ascent to continue. A few heartbeats later, they stood in front of a heavy door—no doubt barred from within.
The single word was accompanied by a tilt of the head, a message received by the burly soldier close on his leader’s heels.
The well-muscled soldier nodded and stepped forward. A second later, the heavy club he carried smashed through the door that impeded their progress. The flimsy wood used by the natives was unable to withstand the powerful impact, and the door crashed inwards—the warriors a heartbeat behind it.
The guards behind the door had been surprised, but they recovered quickly—though not quickly enough to prevent three of their number from being impaled on stone-tipped spears. The other guards reached for the weapons they had left discarded on the simple tables and chairs around the room, but they too died in seconds.
A massive figure hurtled through the doorway at the far end of the room. He had fingers the size of bananas, and his arms were banded with impressive quantities of muscle. The little rat-faced man let out a half-squeak as the jailor rushed towards him.
Two arrows to the throat dropped the giant in his tracks. The little man nodded his thanks to the men who had loosed.
“Traga, Eirin.” The commands were crisp. We’re running out of time, the leader thought.
The two men slid through the doorway, weapons at the ready. The room beyond was empty, save for crowded cells filled with the captives they had come to release.
The leader motioned for the women to be silent as he entered the room. Any outcry now could bring the priests on the balcony outside rushing into the room. Thankfully, the torture of a native occupied both the sadistic priests and the bloodthirsty crowds below.
The rat-faced man thumbed a button on the little palm-shaped he carried, and within seconds the lock to the cells had been opened.
The words were spoken with quiet urgency, and the women followed the leader’s orders immediately. The command in his voice was obeyed without question.
He signaled for the one named Traga to take point, and his men ran alongside the captives as they fled from the prison where they had been held for sacrifice.