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Jaguar (Part 2)

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Central Mexico, 1389:
The humid and scorching heat of the sun had finally ceased as we entered deeper into the jungle. The shade of the tightly grouped trees had shielded us from the rays, cooling are sweat and relaxing the strain in our eyes. It was a little thing to feel such relief for but after the fierce and brutal battle that me and my comrades have just come back from, our senses and adrenaline is still heightened and we can feel and sense almost every little detail of our surroundings. But also at the same time we feel very good and very alive, we have just returned not only from battle but from a glorious victory. We were outmanned and outnumbered but my long loyal and great allies had managed to beat the odds and emerge triumphantly together. There were six enemies we locked into combat with, Solid Skin, Flint Moon, Sharp Snake, and I (Wild Paw) have each killed an enemy for ourselves. Solid Skin and I are the fortunate ones we both captured a live opponent for ourselves not just for trophy and glory but for an even greater purpose. We were now traveling back into the woods for quite a while we couldn’t be that far from the others now. We had our two prisoners tied to a long rope around their waists on both ends, their hands were bound tight together and their legs bound together only far enough for them to walk on their own. We kept them in the center of us and we surrounded them with our eyes and weapons fixed on them making sure that they don’t try any attempt to escape. After just a short while we had finally caught sight of the rest of our men and moved towards them.
We then finally called out to them as we got closer they immediately responded back and began to approach us. But as they did, the rest of my friends and I took our eyes off our prisoners for a moment and one of our prisoners had swung his fists hard between Solid Skin’s legs causing him to yelp in pain. Unable to react, the prisoner then shoved Solid Skin into Flint Moon making them both stumble away, as Sharp Snake and I took notice, my sight quickly went onto my prisoner but I was too late, my prisoner jabbed his foot into my chest and the impact halted my yell and jolted me back instantly to the floor. The kick did hurt but I managed to brush it off and roll up back to my feet. By that time both prisoners made a run for it but in their injured and weakened condition they don’t get far at all. Sharp Snake and I sprang into action but we didn’t have time to draw our weapons. Sharp Snake reached the first prisoner and before the man could react, Sharp Snake jumped up into the air and shot both his feet forward kicking the man in face in midair. As the man collapsed to the floor unconscious Sharp Snake instantly used the momentum of the kick to flip backwards and land clean on his feet. With the two prisoners still tied together the second was unable to go any further now that the dead weight of his unconscious comrade brought him to a halt. But as I approached he wasn’t going to give up that easily, when I got close to him he found a long thick stick nearby, picked it up with both of his hands and swung at me. I leaned back just in time barely evading his attack. Remembering where I injured this man, I brought my left arm up blocking his second shot and I sent my right fist slamming right into the savage wound in his waist. The man screamed out in pain as I yanked the stick away from him and jabbed it into the side of his neck. The man slumped to the floor and began to moan clutching his hands tight to his wound as a small amount of blood began to seep out of it. Solid Skin and Flint Moon had already reached as well as are dozen other comrades. Solid Skin got angry at the man who hit him. Just as the man regained consciousness Solid Skin grabbed his neck and began to punch at his face repeatedly. Solid Skin got about four shots in before Flint Moon and Sharp Snake pulled him away leaving the prisoner bleeding from his mouth and missing a few teeth. After things finally settled down we finally secured our prisoners and moved out with our remaining army men led by our leader Night Hawk.
We met with our remaining men by a river that will easily lead us back to our empire. There were eight men guarding seventeen live prisoners who had been caught earlier in battle, four of them are my captives. There were over ninety men against us eighty-three the battle must have lasted for possibly three or four hours. In the end there is now forty-seven of us left, the rest of our enemies were killed and the remaining seventeen are at our mercy now, each of these men are tied in a long straight row. I brought my prisoner over to where my other four were and checked them all; two were of similar height and built slightly bigger than me both had similar injuries on their arms and chest where I slashed them, one had a missing hand from when I hacked it off with my tomahawk. One other was bigger than me too, due to my knife, the man had two puncture wounds both surrounded with bloodstains and he also had a missing left eye. The last one was smaller than me but he put up quite the fight, I was forced to break shoulder and lacerate his knee with my spear just to weaken him and knock down. Despite these four, my most difficult opponent was my last one. As I finished tying him up to my other captives, Night Hawk came over to me and observed my prisoners with interest. Night Hawk has been my friend longer than any and after the passing of my father he has instructed me in the most deadly arts of war. He is a big, burly, and broad man with a very stern look that creases across his face. This man inherits a long line of honor passed down from his fathers before him. Everything about this man fits together well; his appearance, his skill, and reputation. After Night Hawk had finished observing my capture he turned to me and gave me a slight grin, I immediately returned it. I wasn’t sure of what he was thinking. Before I could ask, Night Hawk gave word to the men and we began to move out. All the prisoners were ordered to march and we immediately started to walk beside them. Some men stayed in the front and back of the crowd as we walked along the river. The rest of us stayed close to the line of prisoners and kept our weapons firmly fixed on them in case another escape was attempted. But I knew there would not be one, at least not from my prisoners.
As we walked, a lot went through my mind. Once in while in between thought I would turn my sight and gaze at the majestic and beautiful horizon of landscapes that we passed. First it was a long line of tall and thick trees curtained with leaves of several colors. Beyond those were large green-covered hills that reflected the sun’s powerful rays. Lastly were the great mountains that were of monstrous size that nearly eclipsed the clear blue sky. I began to think what Night Hawk was looking so proud of me for. Five prisoners are impressive no doubt but others must have caught more than me. “What does he have planned for me?” I didn’t want to wait any longer, I was about to run up to the front were Night Hawk was and ask him to break the news to me but then I quickly turned around and saw Solid Skin and Flint Moon carrying a cage containing a jaguar. But it wasn’t just any jaguar it was the one I saw earlier in battle. Before I could question myself why the jaguar was captured I then realized what was going on, it came to me so fast. I was to become an Aztec Jaguar. Named after the great cat itself the Jaguar was the highest rank and one of the greatest of honors to bear in the empire. There are only four Jaguars in our empire, Night Hawk, Solid Skin, Feather Palms (Night Hawk’s son), and our lord Sky Eyes. How can I become a jaguar now? I thought I was too young and even when or if I’m made into one am I truly worthy? I immediately run up to Night Hawk and explain my thoughts and feelings to him. In just a matter of minutes he leaves with great words of wisdom. Once I returned to my spot I thought about what Night Hawk told me. How he said that my accomplishments and honor to the empire is admirable and that out of all his years of training warriors endlessly he describes how my courage, determination, and strong will to succeed with nobility can only be rewarded with the rank of the Jaguar. I decided any further Night Hawk always knew what was best. I went back to patrolling the prisoners and began mentally preparing myself for the ritual that is to be performed. I took one look at my prisoners and knew that I would be receiving a great honor and they would face a brutal fate.
Night time had fallen when we reached back to the village, crowded with huts of different sizes and shapes. Dozens people poured out as we walked passed through the village. Some of villagers were greeting the returned warriors who have survived; some were miserably mourned in sorrow as the bodies of their fallen loved ones were brought to them, while the remaining folks were harassing the prisoners by spitting and throwing stones and dirt at them. There were a variety of sounds from cursing, weeping, and chanting as all the warriors and I were taking it all in some generously, vigorously, and proudly. Families and many others began to follow us to the center of the empire for the celebration ceremony. Some warriors began to part and walk with their families, I took the opportunity to seek out my family and once we found one another my mother, two sisters, and brother greeted me with utter joy and relief. We embraced one another, my heart lifted to see them again. My mother Light Stream was in tears as she kissed my forehead. I quickly broke the news with them but before I can witness their reaction, Night Hawk called me back. I had one more hug with them and returned to Night Hawk’s side as we entered the capitol. As we entered, I immediately observed the vast area surrounded by nothing but giant temples, monuments, and pyramids decorated with carved designs resembling our history, religion, and culture. This truly was the ultimate city of stone populated with thousands of people and our main place of worship to our gods especially or great Huitzilopochtli (Hoot-zee-oh-pot-chili). He is our god who inherits the sun, life, and agriculture and through his will and guidance he will provide us with the health crops and lands we need to strive and live. But in order to do that we must satisfy his nonstop thirst for blood. Huitzilopochtli was once a warrior, in order to keep are land and people secure we must endlessly wage war amongst our enemies and present them as live sacrifices to our god. Only then the Aztecs will remain the dominant race of Mesoamerica.
We swept through the city as the entire empire was filled with loud cheers of victory from the people that the warriors and I immediately returned back with even louder cheers. We finally came to the bottom of the stairway to the main pyramid that towered over the entire empire. This statues’ place is where the ritual will take place, where the sacrifice will take place. Night Hawk gave the order and we all started up the pyramid stairs followed by our prisoners. Several minutes had passed as our legs continuously took one step after the other straining to keep balance on the steep and narrow path as we moved higher. Just when it seemed endless, we had all finally reached the top and each and every one of us presented ourselves courteously as our lord Sky Eyes appeared before us at the top. He was a very old wrinkly man, wearing thin clothing and several black tattoos and bone piercings on his motionless face. Night Hawk, Solid Skin, and Feather Palms stepped forward and greeted their lord. I was then called up by my lord and I advanced forward greeting respectfully. Sky Eyes faced me up close and patted my shoulders. As we stared at each other for a brief moment. While Sky Eyes congratulated me, Night Hawk called forth the remaining warriors to bring up the prisoners a few began to struggle with the men but were too exhausted to put up much resistance. Sky Eyes then turned me towards the edge of the pyramid and began to address the vast sea of people that sketched throughout the whole city. We must have been over fifty stories, not only that I could see the crowd of thousands but the astounding night horizon before me. Nothing but pitch black skies filled with millions of bright stars. I looked up and observed them vigorously; they seemed so close from being this high from the Earth. At the end of Sky Eyes’ speech, he took my right wrist and raised my arm to the roaring people. As I through free arm to air as well I smiled proudly, I was spellbound by what was occurring. As I paid my last respects to my people, the ritual had now begun.
My five prisoners were brought up forth and presented to the crowd as they cursed slanged at them; I took a long look at them. I knew what was going to happen and what I would have to perform. These men probably knew too of what was to come but they didn’t look scared, they just looked exhausted, broken, exhausted, and beaten mind, body, and spirit with no desire to live. I hope and pray that may never become of me. Only a couple of these prisoners wept lightly but I paid no mind trying not to let myself get sensitive. They would have done the same to me if our positions were exchanged, they would probably enjoy it too. This will be brutal but it has to be done, if I am to become a Jaguar and if our way of life and honor is to go on, we must present Huitzilopochtli with blood, their blood. But I couldn’t help to take notice how belittled these men were, hours ago they were strong and confident warriors who stood tall and proud but now they are reduced to less than common men, just live forms of meat to be given up to our god.
My first prisoner was cut loose and placed on his back on a big rectangle shaped stone with wide flat surface. Two men held the prisoner’s arms and legs as the man began to struggle and twitch with panic. I then stood at the edge of the stone and unsheathed my knife. Clutching it with both hands I raised my knife high over my head in an arch I looked down into the man’s eyes and saw the sheer terror that creased across his face as he breathed unsteadily and heavily. I began to feel sympathy for the man, I will not enjoy this, but it is the only way to ensure my peoples well-being. Without further thought I yelled out savagely and slammed my knife downwards. Before the man could scream, it was quickly halted by the impact as the knife penetrated the man’s lower chest. The man’s eyes were wide with shock as I began to cut a vertical line up his chest. The man was now twitching more violently now as the men holding him began strengthening their hold on him. Blood seeped out of the massive wound as I pulled the knife out of him and began to open the wound wider with both my bear hands. As I came into view of the man’s insides, blood erupted from his mouth and wound splashing and spitting at my face. I closed my mouth and eyes as the warm red liquid covered my face. I then opened my eyes and reached my left hand further and further into the man’s body and began searching for his heart, the only thing that holds enough blood to satisfy Huitzilopochtli. Squeezing my forearm in more I finally felt a round object heavily throbbing at my hand. I gripped it firmly, at the slippery organ, and with one quick yank, I wretched, twisted, and tore my hand and arm out of the man’s body. I raised my red palm into the sky and clutched firmly in my fingers was the red blood-soaked heart that was still beating rapidly. I was surrounded with the thunderous roar of the people and my comrades. The prisoner was still alive, his breathing was slowing down but the same horrid look on his face remained as he watched me holding his heart to the sky, to the gods. It was the last thing he saw before Sky Eyes took a large sharpened club and with one quick hack, the man’s head was chopped off and the head struck the ground. Night Hawk took the heart and placed it in a bag for me. I caught one last look of the dead man’s horror struck expression still on his lone head as both the head and the headless body were thrown down the pyramid steps and tumbled out of sight in a red and misty trail. I felt a rush of adrenaline that coursed through my body, I have never felt this powerful before I felt like I could accomplish any deed now that I have done a great honor for me, my family, people, home, ancestors, and gods. I raised my arms and thanked the gods for this glory. I quickly then returned to my senses as my next prisoner was presented to me. I then grabbed my knife once more and proceeded again.
At the end of the ritual all five hearts were placed in the same bag and given to me. Night Hawk and Sky Eyes then led me into the pyramid into a dark chamber lighted by minimum torches. I was intimidated for a brief second as both men left me alone in the chamber to carry on with the other sacrifices. At first it was all quiet until I saw a figure move through the thin light and fixed my sights on the jaguar with rope tied around his neck and to the ground. The animal was pacing for a bit until it spotted me and stopped. I froze instantly as chills ran up my spine. It was just me and this great animal now. I knew what I had to do and even though that the big cat was tied up I proceeded with caution. I took the first heart out and tossed it to the jaguar and it landed at his feet. The jaguar looked at me then at the heart looking much despised at first. He then sniffed at the organ and with one chomp of its long sharp blade like teeth it snatched the heart up and ate with savory. After feeding him the other four, I sat and waited until Sky Eyes and Night Hawk returned. After over an hour in the dark with the jaguar, both men walked in. I stood up and tossed the bag to them to show them that the jaguar had eaten all of the hearts. With a confirmed look I was led out of the chamber and out of the pyramid.
A huge crowd of people followed us to woods. Once we reached the edge of the forest I was ordered to go into the woods with the jaguar and set him free by myself. Without question I grabbed the jaguar by his rope and led him into the woods with me as the crowd cheered for me. I only traveled several yards deep into the woods once the sound of the cheers dimmed I turned my focus on the big cat. I observed him for moment and noticed an injury on his leg; he must have been injured while being captured. I decided to help the animal by tearing off a piece of my chest cloth and wrapped his wound in it. It was time for me to finish my ritual so I took my knife and cut the rope from the jaguar. The animal looked at me a little bewildered, he thought I was going to kill him but not only am I setting him free but, I helped him with his wound. The jaguar stared into my eyes with a much focused look, as I stared back at his I felt a spiritual connection between me and the great feline. The jaguar was like me, probably as young as me if not younger and just like me he was given such opportunities and responsibilities at such a young age. It’s up to us to make the best of our chances. We have had our fun as youths and made our mistakes but now it’s time to mature and grow up and accept our duties, our destinies, and become who we are meant to be. All of a sudden the jaguar lunged at me and struck my right shoulder with his powerful and heavily sharp-clawed paw knocking my knife away and me to the ground. I froze with shock and fear as the jaguar moved closer to me and looked at me with savagery. I thought this was going to be the end of me now , that I will be mauled to death, torn to pieces and taken from this world and life unable to live to my honor. But then suddenly instead of attacking me, he began to lick the wound on my shoulder. My shoulder didn’t hurt that badly even when he struck, but this was still amazing. Once he was finished treating my wound he looked at me again but this time it looked like admiration. It was almost as if he was saluting me. I looked at the ferocious cat with bewilderment and the cat immediately turned and ran to the woods. Before vanishing it stopped and turned at me with one last look. I slowly got to my feet and saw the jaguar make an approved nod at me. I returned the nod with silent thanks as the jaguar turned and ran deeper in into forest and disappeared into the night. I looked at the four red claw marks scared on my shoulder and thought “Well I guess were even.” This is the mighty cat’s gift to me in return for what I did for him. I will forever bear this mark proudly.
As I exited the forest I was immediately greeted by my warrior comrades and the entire empire that filled the large surrounding fields. Night Hawk and Sky Eyes stepped forth and presented me with the Jaguar hood and skin. The skin covered my entire back like a cloak. Its design resembled the same yellowish-orange color with dozens of black spots. The helmet was carved finely out of wood in the shape of a jaguar’s head. The helmet was decorated with jade stones and obsidian shapes, I admired the beautiful artifact as it was placed on my head. Night Hawk and Sky Eyes presented me to crowd one last time to the yells and cheers filling the air. More loudly than ever they began to chant my name “Wild Paw”. This is my moment, my triumph, and my glory. I took in all that was being given to me in this moment. As I was being filled with such greatness, I caught sight of my mother who was standing with my elder sisters and younger brother in the crowd of thousands. She had tears of joy and happiness in her eyes. My gaze then came to my comrades and mentor who all looked proud of my success and they began to salute me. I have seen all of their care, love, and approval, and that is all I ever truly wanted more than glory, is for them to be proud of me. I am “Wild Paw, Aztec Jaguar, Man of the Gods, and Warrior of Honor and Peace” With all of my breath I greeted their cheers with a long, loud, mighty, proud and triumphant yell. I was heard loud and clearly by everyone. I never wanted this moment to end as I continued my loud screams of victory. To them it sounded like a yell, but to me I heard a roar.







THE END





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