Part 17 - The Offering

Itzli could feel the power of the sun like fire in his blood as he threw down his bow and arrows and leapt over Zyanya, dive tackling the deformed version of Yaotl to the ground. A talon lashed at his back, hooking its nails into his skin. Itzli brought his elbow down on Yaotl’s sternum, but the bone was like rock. The claws sunk deeper into his back until the pain caused him to lose grip and he was thrown across the temple forecourt. The remaining soldiers went in with their swords, one was immediately caught by the head and dragged to the ground, his face disappearing in pink mist. With his newly uncovered arm, Yaotl snatched the fallen warriors sword in time to fend off the other attackers. 
Itzli quickly returned to his feet and untied his sword. Huemac’s soldiers stabbed in and out, but Yaotl now met them with a good sword arm. Yaotl’s ferocity unbalanced one of Huemac’s men, and he whipped the edge of his sword, harshly splitting the soldiers head down to the base of the neck. As the man fell, Itzli rushed in, filling the gap with brute force. As their swords met, the air rang with the violent sound of collision as fragments of obsidian exploded out of Yaotl’s blade. Itzli slipped to the side aiming a thrust to Yaotl’s shoulder. The monster knocked it awayhis follow through blasting the face off one of the surrounding soldiers. Itzli pivoted on his heel, quickly reversing to attack again. The young warrior roared, but his murderous jab only pierced Yaotl’s wing as the monster rapidly drew it over in defence.  
Not relenting, Itzli twisted the sword and ran it down the shiny blue wingspan until the feathers darkened red. Yaotl whipped the wrecked limb across Itzli’s face then shoved a clawed foot deep into his chest. Itzli swung his sword at the exposed leg holding him, causing the monster to let him go, but only for Yaotl’s sword to rush at his throat in its placeItzli couldn’t dodge it, and it was only the slightest of twists that saw the blade carve a bloody chunk out of his shoulder and not his life. 
Itzli dropped and rolled clear, coming to his feet in time to block the overhead chop intended to kill him. He watched the last of Huemac’s men flee the temple forecourt, cowardly, but alive. The young warrior bloked another hammering blow before twisting the blade of his sword and sliding the edge down to shave away Yaotl’s fingers. The monster turned away, but kept up the pressure with a flurry of attacks. Itzli swung his sword to defend himself, blocking low and then deflecting a thrust. Their swords met again, this time Itzli could feel the force shake painfully through his wrist. But he held his grip and drove his blade on, shattering the wood of Yaotl’s weapon.  
The monster screamed as it went to talon the young warrior. Itzli brought his sword up, the talons struck him deeply, almost curving around his ribs. But as Yaotl held him, he swung his sword heavily downward, slicing the flesh of Yaotl’s leg and breaking the bone clean through. Yaotl fell to the ground, and Itzli staggered backward, ripping the severed talon off him. 
As the monster tried to right itself, Itzli ran in, kicking it across the back of the head.  His wounded shoulder left his left arm near useless, but he found the strength to plunge his sword through the back of Yaotl’s neck, until the tip erupted through his jugular. As Yaotl slumped to the ground, Itzli worked the blade in, separating the joints of the neck, cutting at the flesh through to the dark gore, until Yaotl’s severed head rolled free. His monstrous body still twitched and scratched at the ground, but at least now Itzli could be sure, the giant was dead. 
Itzli scanned the carnage of the temple court for signs of his brother, but there were none. He heard his name being called, and saw his father bound to a tree at the edge of the courtyard. 
Itzli! Is that thing dead?” Necalli shouted. 
Itzli ran over to his father, ripping the ties that held him with his hands, “He’s dead. Where’s Tenoch?” 
Rubbing his sore wrists, Necalli spat on the floor, “I saw you arrive, bathed in light. I saw the girl you gave to Huemac too. You don’t know what you’re playing with. 
“I did what I needed to do.” 
Necalli shook his head, “You are an idiot! All you have ever had to do is just accept it, we all knew this day would come. You can’t change the fate of a man who chooses to accept his own destiny.” Necalli was about to say more, but held his tongue. “They’re inside, come on.” Necalli went in through the temple door and Itzli followed.  

Huemac held Zyanya with grip enough to crush her bones, and with a madness in his eye that would surely demolish her existence if tempted. Before them, the goddess of fertility waltzed deeper into the empty temple. Her amber-like skin refracted the persistent sunlight in further unnatural ways. Flashes of rainbow light shot from any water she passed, and in their passing brightness, the fair surface of her body was almost translucent. Huemac held a spear at her back, but it seemed an irrelevant motivator as she led the way to where the High Priest stood, deep in the bowels of temple. There was no sunlight in the innermost chamber, yet Chiconahui could still be seen like a golden beacon amidst the stifling heat of nearly 100 torch fires. 
Momotzli didn’t relent in his chanting as they entered and approached. Tenoch lay on the floor, still in the ceremonial garb of the sacrifice. ThHigh Priest clasped his ornamental dagger closely to his chest, as he began to rock and shake in ritual. 
Momotzli! “ Huemac shouted, his words repeated in the cavernous temple sanctuary. “For the time being, that boy lives. Now you will offer this goddess to Huitzilopochtli, let him know that Huemac, his loyal servant, brings him the greatest sacrifice – one of his own kin!” 
Momotzli at last broke his trance, and hissed, “Your greed blinds you to the calamity that has now befallen us. Do you really believe the god of war, the father of our homeland, Huitzilpochtli, to be so petty and trivial to desire the blood of one of his own? Do you really believe that Chiconahui, the beautiful goddess of fertility will come to be slain for your glory? These all the elements of Tenoch’s curse, and I will end it now!” 
Momotzli fell to his knees and plunged his dagger down. Zyanya’s heart leapt from her chest as she watched the blade sink into TenochHuemac hurled his spear, sending it in to Momotzli’s gut and impaling him. Zyanya rushed to Tenoch, unfurling the clothes that wrapped him to find him bleeding heavily from a knife wound to the chest. Instinctively, she turned to the magical being, the goddess, who watched her with calm. 
“Please, help him,” Zyanya cried. 
“This why I came,” Chiconhaui said. Stepping forward she collected Tenoch from the floor and turned to carry him back to the main hall of the temple. Huemac grabbed Zyanya and went to follow the goddessZyanya checked to see what had become of Momotzli, but he lay motionless beneath the dancing torchlight shadows. 
As they arrived in the hall, Itzli and Necalli came to meet them. Itzli’s sword was raised, and Zyanya screamed him to a halt. “Itzli, please wait. She can save him - your brother has been hurt.” 
She wondered if Itzli had even heard what she had said as he came forward and took Tenoch from the goddess. “Who did this?” 
Momotzli,” Huemac said very quickly. “He’s dead now, I killed him.”  
    Zyanya watched as Itzli’s eyes began to well. Tenoch’s small hands reached up at his brother’s face, perhaps still so sedated he was unaware of his life dripping away. As Itzli handed his brother to his father, Zyanya turned to the goddess, “I know by you being here, Itzli has done wrong, but his heart is a good one. Please spare him this, if you can.” Zyanya stooped to her knees and bowed.  
Chiconahui placed a hand on her supplicated head and said endearingly, “Too many men use courage to disguise fear, and believe that acceptance is cowardly. I hope that this will change from now.” The goddess stood and held out her arms, “Pass him to me. This is why I have come here, please allow me to help.” 
Itzli screamed hatefully, but regardless, Necalli offered Tenoch to her. She made no ceremony, or no fanfare. As she held Tenoch she withdrew all the robes and decorations that covered him, until naked. Zyanya found it difficult to watch as Chiconahui ran her hands over Tenoch’s sores and boils. His heavily disfigured limbs twitched as her hands pressed at the wound, before finally entering the bleeding punctureTenoch cried briefly but soon went calm. As Chiconahui removed her fingers from the wound, his flesh began to seal. 
Zyanya doubted her eyes. On her knees she went to the goddess and reached out to touch Tenoch’s chest. The wound had been healed.  
Itzli,” The goddess said as she handed Tenoch back to Necalli, “I hope that now we can understand each other better. There’s no reason to hate us. Now let us go, before more blood is spilled today.” 
“Wait!” Huemac screamed, finally speaking up from his retracted position. “It is not done yet. I demand my sacrifice!” 
“I have brought you your goddess,” Itzli said. “If you want your sacrifice then she is here, step forward and take it.” 
Huemac heard the words, but failed to step forward. His legs trembled and seemed destined to collapse with the surety of the wall on which he leant. Itzli, his brother and father left, with the goddess with them. Zyanya watched them go, so bravely, and carefree. Huemac continued to bark at them, but they were just empty words, he never moved to stop them. Zyanya looked at the ruler as he stood rooted to the spot. 
“What is it, woman?” he snapped. 
“I am going with them,” she said. She turned away from the city’s ruler, who not once moved to prevent it. She wondered if this was the calamity that Momotzli warned of, if so she was glad for it as it had given her freedom once again. 
“Wherever you go, I will find you! I will bring you back and torture you!” Huemac spat. But Zyanya carried on, moving quickly until she was beside Itzli as they stepped into the open. The first thing she noticed as they got outside was how clearly she could still see the goddess in the early night time sky. The blanket of night was a long time coming, but its cover of darkness was a gift well received.  

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