Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Majo's Tale, Part Four

Majo pulled Joeia aside, looking him in the eyes. “So what now? Do we stumble into this city drunk? With the Dead possibly lurking in the shadows?”

Joeia shook his exaggeratedly. “No, no, no… the Old One always keeps half of the Dead with him in the temple, especially right after he’s awoken from his slumber. They act as his personal servants, doing for him whatever it is monstrous God’s need done.”
“So we killed his hunting party then?”
Joeia nodded. “Near as I can figure we have ‘bout sixteen of the Dead left to worry about. Less if it sent out more to hunt for blood in lieu of the ones we killed.”
Majo stood still, listening to the distant cry of the Macaw as he pondered the odds of his soldiers handling the Dead in a fight right now. Turning, he waved a hand over his head to gather their attention.
“Be alert people, there should be more of the Dead here lurking, looking to stop us from our… mission.”
Majo didn’t really know what to call what they were doing anymore, especially since he’d learned of the true purpose the mission held. Are the other God’s lies as well? Mere monsters that need human blood to survive? He thought bitterly to himself, pulling another pinch of coca leaves and wedging them between his teeth and cheek. This can’t be real… this has to be some sort of nightmare…
Shaking away the negative thoughts, Majo directed the warriors to begin ascending the steps into Teotihuacan, the Place of the Gods.
Darkened spires loomed overhead as they stumbled up the threshold, large buildings that hadn’t seen use in hundreds of years sitting like forgotten tombs, sealed up and left for those brave enough to break them open. Monolithic structures, seamless and dark, sat with uneven edges and impossible angles, conjuring up images of broken, twisted forms to horrible to contemplate. Majo took his eyes off of a spire that curled around what appeared to be an orb, waving for the others to press onward.
Deeper into the city they went, stopping only for Majo to pull a faded map written on a scroll of leather (and for the men and slaves to drink), allowing him to navigate the maze of buildings that spiraled out from the central structure.
The Temple to the Feathered Serpent.
Once it came upon the horizon, Majo breathed a sigh of relief. Dawn was fast approaching, and he wanted to be out of this eerie stone city as soon as possible. Taking a few steps forward, he stopped when he took note of the Temple proper.
Large steps leading up to towering gates held open by the sheer weight of the stone doors, flanked by twin lines of statues leading down the steps of fierce looking creatures, part man and part animal, wings unfurled to reveal a line of spines ending in what could only be mouths. Moving from amongst these horrific statues, were the Dead.
“To arms!” Majo shouted, whipping his spear by his side.
Seven Dead, all stooped with thicker, longer tentacles sprouting from their hunched backs, leapt from their places on the steps, high into the air, to come crashing down into the ranks of the Majo’s soldiers. One landed atop Majo, who just barely was able to move his spear in time to impale the creature as it landed. Black slime dribbled free from the wound, landing on Majo’s exposed chest, searing into the skin with a pain that had no rival. Rolling to the side as the tentacles wrapped around the protruding shaft, snapping it into pieces, Majo pulled his obsidian dagger and scraped off the tar-like blood, just as his vision started to get hazy.
Before he could even heave a sigh of relief, the creature was upon him, tongue-tendril lashing back and forth, bouncing off of Majo’s shield as it tried to find purchase enough to grapple.
Bashing the head and tendril with his shield, Majo darted forward and sank his blade deep into the writhing mass of tentacles, severing two with a twist. The others quickly moved to try and latch onto his arm, but all they were able to do was leave deep gouges along his forearm and wrist.
Kicking the creature in the head, his foot breaking through the softened human skull with ease, Majo smirked as the monster howled its frustration, whipping it’s now baseless tendril about floppily. Taking a moment to press his advantage, Majo moved in and grabbed the tendril, wincing as unseen spines pierced his palm, and yanked hard, tugging it free from the head, which was now leaking the sludgy blood everywhere, to the point where the disoriented creature was slipping in it.
Throwing the tendril aside, Majo turned and moved to help Joeia, who was partially grappled by the tendril wrapped about his waist, four tentacles digging into his right arm as he stabbed at the mass again and again with his spear. Severing the tendril, Joeia fell backward, the front half of his arm splintering and splitting off into the writhing mass. Ramming his blade full hilt into the creatures mockery of a human face, Majo kicked out one of the arms it was perched upon before scooping up Joeia’s discarded spear.
“Die!” He screamed as he rammed the spear into its side, sliding the sharpened obsidian blade across the torso, forcing a torrent of black goo to splatter out onto the stone below. Kicking forward once more to push the dagger deeper into the head, Majo twirled the spear, severing several of the tentacles before taking out the left kneecap of the beast.
Turning, Majo quickly pulled out his leather scroll, tearing a long strip from it and tying it around the Joeia’s bleeding stump. Looking at the hardening tar-like substance that had poured from the beast, Majo scooped some up, wincing as it burned his fingers, and smeared it in Joeia’s wound, halting the flow of blood at the cost of his friends pained screams.
Seeing that Joeia was more or less alive, Majo turned to witness the remnants of the battle. His warriors, drunk as they were, had made short work of the remaining five Dead, losing only one man in the process. The limbless carcass suckled greedily on the man’s corpse, tentacles wrapping around the body protectively as the monster’s black blood slowly began to seep red as well.
Gasping for air, Majo turned to his screaming comrade, slapping him once to get his attention. “That was another seven. You said there might be as many as sixteen. Do you know here they might be old man?”
Joeia shook his head, tears welling in his eyes. Majo leaned forward, pressing a thumb into the ragged remains of Joeia’s arm, forcing another shriek from the old warrior.
“Are you sure? No more secrets to tell?” Majo pressed, leaning close to the screaming figure. Pushing him away, Majo waved for two soldiers to help Joeia up. The slaves, all wide eyed and mumbling amongst themselves, looked at Majo fearfully.
“Warriors… pass out what is left to drink. The ceremony awaits us.” Majo said, eyes never leaving those of the old merchant. The merchant, still drunk from before, now had a sour face, as if the prospect of more drink didn’t appeal to him. Still, he drank when offered.
Walking over to Joeia, who was leaning against a stature heavily, sweating profusely, Majo grabbed him by his shredded arm. “Twenty slaves and ten soldiers… thirty Dead… you don’t just sacrifice the slaves on these runs, do you?”
Joeia shook his head, eyes closed. “Gods… Gods forgive me…”
Majo spit at Joeia’s feet. “Gods? What Gods? What we’re about to sacrifice our men to is a supposed God, and look how well it’s been treating us?” Majo growled, pacing back and forth in front of Joeia.
“What are we supposed to do then Majo, just let it awaken fully so it can attack us? You’ve seen what it can do to our fallen, and trust me, when you catch a glimpse of it, you’ll understand it can make a lot of dead bodies if given the chance.”
“Before you bleed out on me old man, how am I supposed to do this? How do I make this sacrifice?” Majo asked, leaning in close.
“Get… get the warriors to bring the slaves into the middle of the temple. There’s a gong, hidden from view behind the wall next to the gates. Ring the gong, and… and the Feathered Serpent will do the rest…”
Majo stared at him for a moment, growling beneath his breath. Moving away, he walked over to a slave and pulled a jug from his back, before stomping back over to Joeia, dropping the jar between them. Pulling Joeia’s dagger from his belt, he broke the wax seal.
Pointing at the milky fluid contained within, Majo spoke. “Drink up.”
Joeia looked at Majo in surprise, tears trickling down his cheeks. “W-what?”
“I said drink up. You’re joining the sacrifice. You kept this from me for so long, I think you were going to have me join them and save your own skin.” Majo said, spitting out his chewed coca leaves. “Think of this as your last service to the Empire, a warrior’s death!”
“No… you can’t make me!” Joeia groaned, looking away from Majo as he slid down the stature, openly weeping at the idea. Majo crouched low and pressed the dagger to Joeia’s throat, hard enough to get him to only sniffle instead of bawl.
“You die today old man, either as a sacrifice or as a victim to your own blade. You choose.”
Staring for a moment, hiccupping as he did so, Joeia’s bleary eyes looked down at the knife then over at the pot of alcohol. Turning to stare into Majo’s eyes, he leaned forward, slowly sliding the obsidian blade into his own throat, gurgling as the knife severed his windpipe and blood bubble forth from his mouth. Majo stared impassively, pulling the blade free as Joeia tumbled forward, a pool of blood rapidly expanding around his body as he twitched a few more moments, before dying.
Turning back to his warriors, who were all staring, Majo held the blade high. “Any who choose to go against me will face such a fate! This is for the glory of the Empire!”
The men, drunk, held their fists in the air and cheered along with Majo, who cheered long and loud, mourning the death of his comrade, who’d chosen death over facing the horrors within the Temple.
Horrors that he would now have to face alone.
After the last jar was emptied of the sour liquor, the bodies piled high (the crippled Dead howling piteously), Majo ordered the soldiers to lead the slaves into the temple proper. The stumbling drunks, half leaning on their spears, did as commanded.
Walking up the steps, Majo marveled at the great stone slabs that had been layered to make the steps. Each was easily twenty feet wide and five feet across, all unbroken. As they passed over the threshold into the temple, moving along the wall that sat just beyond the entrance, Majo saw what Joeia had been speaking of. The wide open temple was home to many old stains on the stone floor beneath an open ceiling, allowing moonlight to filter in. Behind the wall, set into a wide alcove, was a dusty gong, a wide hammer resting next to it.
“Bring the prisoners to the center, and stand with them,” Major ordered the men, who gave him a questioning look, “I don’t want them running from the Feathered Serpent.”
They nodded at this and drug the stumbling men deeper still into the temple, into the center beneath the moonlight, lightly holding their spears as they looked around in amazement. Once they had settled over where the brown patches were at their densest, did Majo scoop up the hammer and ring the gong.
A sudden scuttling noise, like the hissing of a hundred cockroaches, filled the air. Lurking behind one of the four columns holding the building up, in the shadows, came a creature torn straight from Majo’s nightmares. Upon six feathered wings it flapped, half flying and half walking on its rear section, which was that of a giant segmented centipede. It’s head, a disjointed reptilian thing with four eyes and three nostril slits, opened up to reveal a mass of writhing tentacles, all of which raced forward, scooping the screaming slaves and soldiers into the air, wrapping around them deftly as they did so.
The tentacles suction cups tore through the leather armor the soldiers wore, ripped through the tunics the slaves had, and pierced straight into the human skin as if it were parchment, blood splattering from the wounds before the cups formed a seal over them, draining the bodies of their blood in a sick symphony of screams and tormented howls, all drowned out by the hissing of the foul beast.
Majo didn’t stay to watch the men die, choosing to merely run from the city, to run from Teotihuacan, vowing never to return.


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