Continued from Part 1:
The two other warriors stepped forward in obedience, but then stopped. A soft whisking sound, like branches in a breeze, came from all around them. One of the scouts behind Zamná cried out in agony and Zamná saw a streak of sleek black fur blur past him. A second blur showed a dark mass tackle the archer who was frantically trying to raise his bow.
Tzuco looked from Zamná to a point just over Zamná’s shoulder and then cried out in terror. The cry was drowned out by a ferocious roar. Zamná spun around and looked up into the open jaws of a jaguar. The great cat was enormous with huge glistening teeth. Its dark black fur shined in the breaking dawn and it leaped at Zamná from its perch in the tree. Zamná dropped quickly to the forest floor, instinctively throwing his hands up to protect himself, only to see the enormous bulk of the jaguar sail over him and land on Tzuco, knocking him to the ground. The cat snarled again and the other warriors took to the forest as quickly as they could. Zamná saw dark forms overtake them in just a few steps as other jaguars pounced from the trees.
Zamná held still, curled in a ball, for a few moments longer, listening to the snarls of jaguars and the cries of fallen warriors. As the sounds drifted past him, he rose slowly and looked around. He was safe and alone. Miraculously, none of his captors remained and none of the jaguars seemed interested in him. He dropped to his knees and breathed out, “I’m alive!”
The next sound he heard brought a smile to his face. It was the seashell trumpets of Hunac Ceel signaling the approach of the army of Mayapán. Zamná rushed back to the overlook where he had jotted his report and looked down again at the city, this time making no effort to hide. He could feel the beat of the approaching drums beneath the peal of the trumpets. The Mayapán army was approaching, just making their appearance into the cleared area surrounding Chichen Itzá.
Zamná looked down at the city and gasped. The army he had seen massing before was now in chaos as their warriors scrambled to cover the walls and defend the city gates. Everywhere he looked, Zamná saw claws and fur approaching the city. Thousands of jaguars, some black and some gold with spots, were pouring down from the jungle. They were surrounding the city. They were climbing the walls. They were leaping at the guards who seemed too terrified to defend themselves.
The sound of trumpets and drums was soon thundering in his ears. Just a few hundred yards from where he stood, Zamná saw the approaching army of Hunac Ceel. The early morning sun illuminated a sedan chair at the front of the army being carried by the two largest jaguars Zamná had ever seen. On the sedan chair stood Ah Mex Cuc, the Jaguar Priest of Mayapán. His arms were raised and he wore a look of intense concentration on his face, but the most striking part of his appearance was the powerful glow of deep green energy that surrounded him, emanating from a gold talisman hanging around his neck. The army came to a halt outside the city gates and the 5,000 warriors of Mayapán watched raptly as the hordes of jaguars coursed around them, surging into the city.
Zamná watched a tall warrior in golden armor with long brilliant feathers climb onto the sedan chair beside Ah Mex Cuc. He began shouting.
“Chac-xib-chac of Chichen Itzá!” he cried. “I am Hunac Ceel, ruler of Mayapán!” His voice echoed through the city and came clearly to Zamná’s ears. “My army stands at your gates, and the minions of my Jaguar Priest, Ah Mex Cuc, are ready to lay waste to your city.” Hunac Ceel paused and waited for his words to echo away. “I demand your surrender.”
Zamná’s gaze was pulled back to the city where a mass of archers and warriors on a balcony above the front gate made way. The mass split apart for five men wearing the masks and headdress of the rain god to stand alone, then one among them, the tallest and darkest-skinned walked to the front. He wore a fierce snake-fanged helmet and carried a giant black spear carved at the top with a statue of the lightning god.
“I am Chac-xib-chac!” he shouted down from the balcony. “I hear your words and see your army at my gates. Your small army,” he added, looking past the hordes of jaguars and staring right at Hunac Ceel. “I know not what magic brings the mighty jaguars to your aid, but I demand to know why you have come out against us in battle.”
Hunac Ceel waited a moment, and then responded, “Chac-xib-chac, you know well the reason that I am here. Your people have taken the wife of our ally from Uxmal. We have come to rescue her and to spill your blood. Surrender your city, return the princess of Uxmal, and come captive with us. Surrender willingly and we will pay you the great honor of being sacrificed to the jaguar god.”
Chac-xib-chac lifted his obsidian spear over his head and shouted at Hunac Ceel. “I am the ruler of Chichen Itzá and high chief of this great army. I will never surrender to you!” The army of the Itzás shouted and banged their weapons against their shields in agreement.
When it again grew quiet, Hunac Ceel gestured at the city before him. “Very well, Chac-xib-chac,” he said quietly, then he shouted, “I am the ruler of Mayapán and the lord of the jaguars. Look upon me, Chichen Itzá, and see your conqueror.”
He turned to Ah Mex Cuc and said a few hasty words. The Jaguar Priest lifted the large golden talisman and the green glow intensified around him. Now, flashing bursts of power like thunderclaps made the soldiers nearest to him wince.
The legions of jaguars roared in unison and poured into the city of Chichen Itzá.
Well, there it is. What I've got so far. I'm going for a strong start that briefly introduces the magic system of the talismans and some of the historical research that will support the main story. I want it to be compelling enough to bring the reader in and get him through the first few chapters until I have good momentum. Comments and feedback welcome!