Part 18 - An Epilogue


They had been travelling east, walking hard through the day, and sleeping lightly through the night. The days were like monotonous beads in a necklace, each one the same as the last; all unified with a single thread of inactivity. The season was changing, yet no rain had fallen from the cooler skies. It meant Itzli, his brother, father and Zyanya thirsted for much of their travels. But at least the harder ground made their tracks more difficult to follow. 
The goddess never travelled with them, but always appeared wherever they were to stop. It seemed she was unable to return to Aztatlan by any other means than by foot. So it was that when Zyanya called them to a halt, Chiconahui was already there, making her subtle way towards them through the forest. 
Itzli, there is something there – it looks like a temple,” Zyanya said. “The goddess is there.” 
“I know,” Itzli said. “But we’ve come so far east that we must be near the great sea. We need water, not rest.” He looked to his father, who carried Tenoch on his back, but he disregarded him and went towards the waiting goddess. Zyanya held her decision until Itzli reluctantly followed. 
Pushing aside the forestry, they came into deserted temple gallery. The place was devoid of humanity and looked like it had been so for some time. The ground had hardened into dusty clay underfoot, and showed no signs of struggle or disorder. It was a place that people had simply left. Chiconahui sat on what used to be an alter that was in the middle of the gallery, where not too long ago some high priest stood before his subjects and laid a body down for sacrifice.  
Itzli stepped past his father, Necalli to approach the goddess at the head of his party, “Why have you come here now? There’s still much light left in this day, and we are close to the sea – we need to drink.” 
Chiconahui regarded them all absently with eyes lost in some far away contemplation. “What lies ahead is the ocean, far greater than any sea. But we won’t reach it – and I fear we will not reach Aztatlan.” 
“If we are lost, it is only you to blame! I told you Aztatlan was to the North – but you lead us on this road.” 
“If you went north, you will all be dead,” the goddess snapped. 
“And then what are we know? Why must we stop here?” 
“Because we are surrounded. There are warriors closing in on us, from all around. We have no chance of escape, we must face them, now.” 
Necalli untied Tenoch from the tightly wound robes that held him to his back. As he laid him down, Zyanya came forward and began to talk with him, distracting him from what the other spoke of. 
Necalli untied his sword, “What do you suggest, goddess?” 
With the dirt of travel smeared all over her amber beauty, she appeared more beggar than goddess, “With Quetzalcoatl dead, Tlaloc dead, we cannot pray for protection. These men have come to kill, so we must face them and fight them.” 
Itzli held up his sword, “I have the weapons gifted to me by a god – I can kill Huemac’s men.” 
The goddess stood angrily, her golden-brown eyes gave off a hot glow. “These are not Huemac’s men. You are about to come face to face with Teotl. 
Necalli asked, “How do you suggest we fight them?” 
“Anyway you choose,” the goddess said, “but death is inevitable.” Her words were met with silence. Itzli looked over to where Zyanya and Tenoch now played together. He was sure she had heard, but somehow she kept a wonderful smile on her face. Her decision to leave the city must have felt like madness right now.   
“No one will die,” Itzli declared. “I still have an ally.” Itzli stepped away from his father and the goddess, turning his face skyward in hoping of finding a golden ball of fire above. Instead he called to the clouds that hovered above him, “Tonatuih! God of the sun, it is me, Itzli!” His call was met with a cautionary pull from his father, which Itzli shrugged off. The god’s help was necessary. 
Chiconahui stepped away from the men, perhaps from fear, Itzli couldn’t be sure. He was about to call again, when from behind a dried up fountain stepped Tonatuih, emerging from a brief spark of brilliant light. His jewellery jingled together as he lightly walked over, his steps not carrying any of the the weight of conflict that was surrounding them. He greeted Itzli with a smile, and nodded deeply to the others. “It is good to see you all in good health,” he said.  
“It seems our good health will not see us through the day,” Necalli chided. He grabbed his son by the arm and spoke quietly to him, “Itzli, I know he helped you, but I do not believe this is wise.” 
Itzli again shrugged his father’s grip away, “Tonatuih, we are surrounded by enemies. Can you take us from here – to Aztatlan? If not then we will need your strength to fight.” 
Chiconahui fully retreated to sit with Zyanya as she played with Tenoch. The sun god nodded silently and solemnly, as though his ageface was now too weak to raise a smile. “I cannot transport you all, but I can help you to face your new adversaries. But, Itzli, it will come at a cost.” 
“What cost?” 
Tonatuih flicked his head over to where Chiconahui sat with Zyanya. “The quicker it is done, the easier for us all, he said. 
Chiconhaui heard every word, but kept a calm and serene smile as she continued to play. Itzli untied his sword, and walked over to her. Both Necalli and Zyanya refused to look at him. “Come over here,” Itzli said to the goddess. 
“It has been over 30 days since we left Huemac’s palace. I had thought I had changed your heart,” she said, ruffling Tenoch’s hair before turning to face Itzli. “The world cannot be saved, your allegiance with him has seen to that. But after all of this, you don’t even understand. I will not die in vain, for your fear.” 
“Is it fear?” Itzli hissed, “You told me someone will die, it looks like that person is you, and then it will be the enemy. 
“The world is full of enemies.” Chiconahui stood and walked away from Zyanya and Tenoch, and passed Necalli with an endearing touch on his cheek. Itzli guided her over to the area where the altar used to be, bringing her to her knees before Tonatuih.   
“Do what is necessary, Itzli. But hurry, your enemies move closer,” the sun god said. 
With Chiconahui on her knees before him, Itzli raised his sword. Before he brought it down, he looked to his father, but his back was turned. He hoped that one day they would understand. Chiconahui turned to say something, but Itzli cut down across her neck, wedging the edge of his blade through the bone. Her skin didn’t tear like flesh, but cracked like brittle jade. He blood spewed on to the ground, robbing her of her unearthly glow.  
Tonatuih,” Itzli began, “Take this offering from me, let it strengthen you enough to aid me.” As Chiconahu fell dying onto her back, Itzli shoved the tip of his sword between her breasts, cracking open her chest which broke apart like splintered wood. He reached in, and with much effort pulled out a small and darkly bloodied heart. He offered it before him, and Tonatuih took the offering with relish. 
As the sun god devoured the heart, Zyanya screamed. Itzli looked to her; she carried Tenoch and was backing away from two strange looking figures. They were tall, with dark and furry faces. Their heads and their chests glistened even in the weak sunlight. Their swords sparkled too, just like Itzli’s. 
“Now, Tonatuih, I need your strength now!” Itzli roared, but the sun god was gone. There was not a single tingle of jewellery, and the sky remained miserable and overcast. He had vanished completely.  
Two more strange men came out from within the forest, their clothes were near identical. The armour on their chests and heads were like nothing Itzli had seen in the mortal world. These were not Huemac’s men. A hand was extended to Zyanya. She cried and stepped back, Itzli cried and leapt forward. He closed them down and swung his sword. He tried to recall what the power of the sun felt like as his sword bounced off the glimmering breast plate. 
Zyanya carried Tenoch to Necalli, while Itzli stared the men down. He growled at them, any moment now and the strength of the sun god Tonatuih would beam into him, and give him the power to cut them down. An arrow shot from out of the bushes, striking home in the flesh of his thigh with a irresistible cry. The temple gallery was now filling with more strange men, with sword and arrows at the ready. Itzli screamed for Zyanya and Necalli to run as he held his ground in the face of the enemy arrow heads and sword tips. 

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