A bright green parrot darted out from the trees
and flew above them, squawking. A feather fell from its wing, floating down
and landing in front of them. Callum picked it up and put it in his shirt
pocket. “Parrots! They’ve got parrots here. Fiona, you can talk to parrots.”
Callum reminded her of her magical powers. “We don’t need any rain and we
don’t want to find treasure. I don’t think you will need to talk a different
language as we’re the only people around here. You might have to change the
weather and talk to animals though, and even grow big. Don’t forget the
magic powers, Fiona. We’re gonna need them this time.”
Another loud roar frightened the parrot. It flew
away, landing in the trees on the other side of the city.
“Do jaguars know how to climb? We can always
climb up to the top of that pyramid over there,” Elspet said.
“If that jaguar is one of our traps, it will
just wait down here until we come back down. We are going to have to face
it. I’ll have to figure out a way to get rid of it. Come on,” let’s go into
those ruins over there. We can hide and think this out.” Fiona hurried
behind the limestone wall.
“I think there are more than one jaguar,” Elspet
said. “They roars are coming from different places.” She ran behind Fiona.
Inside the half-fallen room they huddled in a
corner. “Whisper. We don’t want it to hear us,” Callum said. “This place
gives me the creeps. It feels like it’s haunted by Maya spirits.”
“Oh, Elspet, stop talking like that. It’s just a
bunch of ruins. Now, what are we going to do? The jaguar, or jaguars are
coming closer. It’s obvious that this is one of our traps,” Fiona said.
“Shh. I hear a noise. Something’s coming.”
They saw a shadow spread across the entrance of
the room they hid in. A face peeked around the corner. It was a small boy.
Feeling relief, Callum asked, “Who are you?”
The boy turned and ran away. “Let’s follow him,”
“Wait a minute. You can’t go out there. Remember
the jaguars. They’re looking for us,” Callum said, reminding her of the
“The boy thinks it’s safe enough,” Elspet said.
She ran after him.
“Wait for us,” Callum shouted.
“Boy! Wait, boy. Wait for us,” Elspet called.
“He’s leading us back into the cloud forest. We
won’t be able to see anything if we keep going,” Callum said.
They stopped when they saw him leaning against a
tree, wearing only a leather skirt that hung from his waist to his knees. It
was decorated with tiny turquoise beads. His dark brown hair hung around his
ears and around his neck he worse a strip of leather with a carving of stone
dangling from it. They were afraid if they approached any closer, he’d run
“Ya’axche,” Tlaloc said, pounding the tall tree
trunk with his fist.
“Look how high that tree goes. It’s part of the
canopy. The roots are big too,” Callum said.
They all looked up. “Speak to him in Spanish,
Fiona,” Elspet said.
In Spanish Fiona said, “My name is Fiona. This
is Callum and Elspet. What’s your name?”
“My name is Tlaloc. Where did you come from and
why are you here?”
“We’re from a country far away. Wow! You have
pretty brown eyes. They’re big and they sparkle. Why are you hitting the
tree?” Fiona scratched the top of her head.
“It is a ceiba, a very sacred tree. It is the
tree of life. It unites the underworld, earth, and the heavens. I only honor
it. I too like your green eyes. There are many Maya with eyes as green as
yours. They also can have gray, or blue eyes,” Tlaloc said, looking at the
others. “The Maya mixed with the Spaniards.”
“We are here to look for a special piece of
amber. It is something sacred to us. Long ago someone came to this land and
buried it here in these ruins. Can you help us find it?” Elspet and Callum
had no idea what Fiona and Tlaloc were saying.
“Your skin is white, not brown like mine. You
were unusual clothes. You are different, but I sense you are kind. I will
try to help you,” Tlaloc said. “The man who came, he wasn’t Cortez, was he?”
“No, of course not. Cortez did a lot of harm to
your people. This man came from Arabia. Have you heard of that?”
“No. I will help you as long as you are sure it
wasn’t Cortez,” Tlaloc said.
“What’s that he’s wearing around his neck? It
looks like a jaguar head. Can he help save us from the jaguars?” Callum
urged Fiona to ask.
“Can’t you hear the jaguars, Tlaloc? They’re
after us. We need your help. Can you hide us from it or take us somewhere
safe?” Fiona smiled at the boy.
“Follow me.” Tlaloc ran into the bushes.
“Come on. He’ll help us hide from the jaguars,”
Fiona said. She ran after the boy. Elspet and Callum followed.
After running for a while, they came to a
clearing. “Hummingbirds!” Elspet saw dozens of them fluttering around a bush
of pink hibiscus. “Look at them all! They’re so green and shiny.”
The sound from the fluttering wings sound like
bees buzzing. “They’re just birds,” Callum said.
“Chaac,” Tlaloc said. He held up his hand and
one of the hummingbirds flew over and landed on it. “Chaac.” The boy smiled.
“He’s got a pet hummingbird named Chaac? How old
is Tlaloc? Ask him, Fiona,” Elspet said.
“Tlaloc, how old are you?”
“I don’t know what you mean?”
“How many summers have you seen?” Fiona
remembered Johnny and the others didn’t know the year of their birth, but
only knew how many summers they’d lived through.
“I was born at the end of summer. I have seen
nine summers. I am Maya. My ancestors built this great city.”
“What was it called?”
“It was called Camaxpotichli.”
“Say that again, but much slower,” Fiona said.
“Cam-ax-pot-ichli,” he said, talking very
“That’s hard to say.” Fiona tried to repeat it.
She looked at Elspet and Callum. “He says the name of this city was
Camaxpotichli. He’s nine years old and he is Maya. His ancestors lived
“Wow! That’s cool.” Elspet smiled at Tlaloc.
The jaguars roared and sounded much closer.
“They’re going to get us, Fiona. Please have Tlaloc help us hide from them,”
“He’s taking us further into the rainforest. We
need to get the jewel, which is in the old city,” Elspet said, “the other
“Tlaloc, we need to find the piece of amber and
hide from the jaguars.” Fiona pointed to the ruins. “We need to go back in
He shook his head. “No. You must not. It is not
“I know, but we must go.”
He shook his head back and forth. “Fiona, give
him something out of the backpack. Bribe him. Give him a chocolate bar.”
Fiona peeled back the wrapper and gave it to
Tlaloc. He bit into it. “Cacao. Cacao.” A grin spread across his face and he
gobbled it down. “Follow me. I will show you some more.” He led them to a
tree. Long fat pods hung from the trunk and lower branches. “Cacao.” He
pulled a pod off and broke it open. He bit into it. “Cacao.” He handed it to
Fiona to taste.
She bit into it. “It’s a bit bitter, but not
that bad. Try some.” She handed it to Elspet and then Callum.
“I don’t like it,” Callum said, pushing it away.
“It’s all right, but I like the chocolate we get
at home much better,” Elspet said.
As they picked at the cacao beans, they didn’t
pay any attention to their surroundings. A low growl burst from its throat.
Callum turned around slowly. “It’s the jaguar.”
Elspet, Fiona and Tlaloc turned. The cat was
huge, covered with glossy black fur and its eyes were black and full of
hatred. It snarled, showing its teeth. “What are we going to do?” Another
one appeared and stood next to the first. One more showed up. The three of
them looked ready to pounce.
Tlaloc put his hands to his mouth and let out a
howl. He did it over and over. The jaguars, confused with the noise, stood
still. The sound of rustling in the trees caught their attention and it
looked up. Ear piercing howls, long and high pitched erupted in a cacophony
of noise. “Monkeys come to help,” Tlaloc said to Fiona.
The jaguars ran off, their long tails
disappearing into the bushes. Several howler monkeys swung from the vines
and dropped to the ground in front of them. “Uh, are those monkeys
friendly?” Callum noticed they had sharp teeth too.
“The monkeys are my friends, as are the
hummingbirds, parrots, kinkajous and all other animals, except the jaguars.
He is friend to nobody. Do not touch the monkeys. They will bite.” Tlaloc
“Yes, Callum. The monkeys are friendly, but
don’t try to pet them,” Fiona warned.
They followed the monkeys back to the ruins.
Callum sat down on a piece of broken wall. One of the monkeys ran over to
him and climbed on his lap. “Uh, Fiona.”
“That’s funny. It looks like you’ve made a
friend,” Elspet said.
Callum stroked its fur. “He doesn’t mind me
touching him.” It busied itself exploring Callum’s hair, ears and nostrils.
Tlaloc shrugged his shoulders and grinned
“Tlaloc, we’re looking for a large stone head.
It’s probably this big,” Fiona said, holding her arms out.
“I know what you are speaking of. The sacred
head was made by the Olmecs, a civilization that lived long before the Maya.
The heads are scattered all over our land. The one you seek is further in
the city. Come, I will show you.”
Callum gently pushed the monkey off his lap and
then followed the boy. The monkeys trailed behind. Several flamingos flew
overheard. “Those are so cool looking,” Elspet said, pointing at the birds.
“I’ve seen them in the zoo but never in real life. Ask Tlaloc what a
Fiona asked. Tlaloc laughed and pointed. A
kinkajou sat on a stone, picking at its tail. “There’s one for you. If you
look behind it, you will see a coatmundi. They live here in the ruins. They
are my friends too. We call those pink birds flamencos.”
“There are so many new animals that we’ve never
seen or even heard of before. The coatmundi looks like a raccoon, sort of,”
Fiona said. She wiped sweat from her brow. “How can you stand the heat? It’s
so humid. It’s a cloud forest.”
“Yes, we are sometimes called ‘the cloud
people’, but it is the only way of life I know, so it doesn’t bother me.”
Tlaloc looked at Fiona’s clothes. “You dress in heavy clothing. No wonder
you are so hot.” He started laughing. “There is your head.”
Sitting in the middle of the city, surrounded by
vines and growth, sat the stone head. It was much larger than Fiona had
thought, being about eight and a half feet high. “The amber is inside
“Wow! That’s huge. How did they carve heads that
big?” Callum touched it. “They must have used a big stone.”
“Inside it? How will we get it out? We could
never break it. It’s been here for two thousand years and it’s too big,”
Fiona went up to the head and looked closer at
it. “The stone is inside it. If one of the men can put it in there, we can
get it out.”
Callum started pounding on it with another rock.
“I’ll do it.”
Tlaloc grabbed his hand. “No. Do not hit it. You
will anger the gods.”
“Callum, stop it. He said you’ll anger the
gods,” Fiona said.
“Gods? What gods?” Callum asked.
“They will ask for a sacrifice,” Tlaloc told
“A sacrifice? You don’t mean what I think you
mean, do you?” Fiona stared at the boy. He nodded yes. “Callum, do not touch
that head. Nobody touch it.”
An armadillo scurried past, chased by a badger.
Shortly after those ran past, a pig-like animal rushed by. “What was that?”
Elspet laughed. “It looks funny.”
“It’s a tapir,” Callum said, dropping the stone.
He stared at the animals as they ran around, circling the toppled stones. He
noticed a mist creeping towards them from the other side of the ruins.
Tlaloc noticed it too. “We must go. When Callum
hit the sacred head, he angered the gods. They will send warriors to perform
a sacrifice, his sacrifice.” Tlaloc pointed at Callum, turned, and ran back
into the rainforest.
“Oh Callum. You’ve messed everything up. Come
on. We’ve got to get out of here.” Fiona grabbed their hands and they ran.
Tlaloc was far ahead of him. “Stop, Tlaloc. We can’t see you. Wait for us.”
She didn’t see the hole and the three of them fell.