Chichen Itzá, Yucatan Peninsula – 1190 AD
Zamná was faster than the other scouts, so he was the first to arrive at the walls of the city. He moved silently, quickly, from one shadow to the next until he lay on his belly, concealed on a low rise just a stone’s throw from the gates of Chichen Itzá. His trained eyes pierced the darkness of the early morning and made out the gathering army of the Itzás through the city gate. Dawn had not yet come and the city was dimly lit by scattered torches. He began counting the heads of the warriors illuminated by the torchlight, estimating the vast army in groups of 100, then 500, then groups of one thousand. His eyes scoured over their bright armor, their gleaming feathers, and their wood and iron weapons, identifying each by their dress, their weapon, and the numbers of their feathers as either a warrior, chief, archer, or priest.
He rechecked his calculations and then drew a message pad from his belt pouch. He scrawled the numbers with his charcoal pencil onto the soft bark of the pad.
Zamná did not see the high chief of Chichen Itzá or his foul high priest, the demon Hapay Can. He replaced the pad in his belt and rose slowly, silently from his hiding place. Zamná would rush back as he had come, moving quickly over the miles of rain forest to rejoin the army of his people on their march to Chichen Itzá. He would be the first scout to present the morning’s information to Hunac Ceel, the lord of Mayapán and Ah Mex Cuc, the Jaguar Priest.
Zamná had taken only a few steps when he heard a branch snap somewhere nearby. He froze in his tracks at the unmistakable sound of another human in the rain forest. The sound came again, closer, of more undergrowth being kicked aside by men. Not the silent movements of a fellow scout, but the heavy, booted steps of warriors. Zamná looked around for a chance to escape using his greatest weapon, his speed, but he was at the edge of the forest, and the warriors were between him and his own army. Next, he heard the sound he dreaded most, the soft, almost indiscernible footfall of a trained scout. He whirled in place, his small knife flashing up to defend himself, but he was too late. Zamná was surrounded. Three scouts wearing the insignia of the Itzá stood before him, splayed out to prevent him from running. He heard the stomping boots come to a halt behind him.
“Drop your weapon, Scout,” said a coarse voice.
Zamná let his knife fall to the ground and then turned slowly to face the warrior who had spoken. He was a big man, with eagle feathers tied to his arms and hair. He was flanked by two more warriors and an archer wearing the shimmering green feathers of the quetzal.
“What are you doing here at the walls of Chichen Itzá?” the warrior demanded.
Zamná relied on his training. He looked defiantly into the eyes of the Itzá warrior. Three warriors, three scouts and one archer, he realized he had been ambushed by their border patrol, and it was far more than he was prepared to fight against alone. Still, he would give them no answers, no warning about the army of Mayapán that was even now descending upon them.
One of the scouts spoke, “He wears the Jade Arrow, see his talisman?” He pointed at the dark green arrowhead hanging from Zamná’s necklace. “He is an elite scout of Mayapán, home of our enemy Hunac Ceel.”
“Is this true, Scout?” asked the first warrior. “Are you a spy for our enemy at Mayapán?” Zamná still said nothing.
“Be careful, Tzuco,” a second warrior said to the first, “I hear that the Jade Arrow are powerful spies, possessed with dark magic.”
Tzuco scoffed. “Dark magic?”
But the second warrior continued, “Magic that makes them move silently, disappear into the darkness, and…” he gulped, “and summon the jaguar.”
Tzuco looked slightly less bold as he turned back to the calm face of Zamná. “Are you a Jade Arrow, Scout? Is this true that you can use dark magic?”
Zamná returned a level stare at the warrior and answered, “I am Jade Arrow.”
The other warriors stepped back a little, but Tzuco held his ground. “Well,” he began laughing, “I believe your only power is in frightening my patrol! If you had dark magic, we would not have caught you. Besides, you are one and we are seven. And we are within a cry of our fortress city, while you are miles away from Mayapán and any possible help.”
Tzuco paused in his reasoning and waited to see its effect. Zamná appeared unphased, but the other Itzás seemed to summon new courage.
A scout spoke for the first time. “Jade Arrow, we have magic, too. Do you not know that we serve the great king Chac-xib-chac who can summon Hapay Can?”
“I have seen the god Hapay Can, Scout,” added Tzuco, glaring menacingly at Zamná. He is a terrifying serpent, black and shimmering and twice the height of a man.” He pointed at Zamná’s chest. “And he will draw your heart right out through your chest and devour it!”
Zamná remained silent for a moment. He knew the dawn was coming and the attack of Mayapán against Chichen Itzá would be soon after. He regretted that he would be unable to pass his report on to Hunac Ceel. But he drew himself up and made a valiant last stand.
“I do not fear your high chief or his god Hapay Can, the sucking snake!” he could see his words filled the warriors with rage, but Zamná continued, “I serve a greater chief, and his magician, the Jaguar Priest Ah Mex Cuc is far greater than Chac-xib-chac and even Hapay Can. Your people will cower and plead for mercy against the armies of Mayapán and the Jaguar Priest!”
Tzuco shouted as he finished, “Grab him! Let us take him before Lord Chac-xib-chac!”
Continued here: http://shawnthoughts.blogspot.com/9070259081904092572