“We can’t go back to the city because that mist
is there. I know it came for me,” Callum said. “I just had to touch the
head. I wish I’d known about all these Maya rules.”
“We have to go back. How can we get the amber if
we don’t? It’s not going to march out of the stone for us. There must be a
trick of some sort, or a hidden opening,” Fiona said.
The four of them marched towards the city. “The
fog is still there, Fiona. I fear the evil gods of Xibalba are coming to
take Callum to the underworld,” Tlaloc said.
Fiona looked at Callum. “He says they’re coming
to take you to the underworld.”
“Who is?” Callum grabbed Tlaloc’s arm. “Who is
coming to get me? They’re really coming because I touched the sacred head?”
“Tell him he cannot escape. Xibalba is a demon
from the underworld. The Popol Vuh has many stories about our past and
demons. I fear they are bringing forth a high priest to perform the
sacrifice and then take Callum’s condemned soul down to Metnail.”
“We’re in big trouble, Callum. We’ve got to get
that stone and get out of here right now,” Fiona said. “I’m going to get it.
Elspet, you come with me. Tlaloc, take Callum and hide on the beach. It’s
that way, isn’t it?” Fiona pointed. Tlaloc nodded. “We’ll come and find you
when we have the amber. We’ve got to keep Callum safe.” Tlaloc nodded again
and took Callum’s hand. “Go with him and hurry.”
“How will I understand him? He speaks Maya and I
speak English,” Callum said.
“You’ll work something out. Just go.” Fiona
waved as the two boys ran off. “Stay away from the cenote.” She shouted
“What about us? Will the evil demons try to get
us?” Elspet wiped a tear from her eye.
“I don’t think so. We’ve not done anything,
yet,” Fiona said. “Come on.”
They crept into the ruins, the mist swirling
around their ankles. “Which way is it?” Elspet thought all the ruins looked
“This way,” Fiona took Elspet’s hands. Five
minutes later they stood in front of the giant stone head. “Now what?”
“There must be a trick to it. Close your eyes
and think,” Elspet said.
Fiona shut her eyes and concentrated. She pushed
out all thoughts of danger and fear. She saw a shape form in her mind. It
was the head and as the fogginess cleared from her view, she saw ears. Touch
the ears. Touch the ears. Touch the ears. When she opened her eyes she
wrapped her arms around the head. “What are you doing, Fiona? Why are you
hugging it?” Elspet stood at the back of the head.
“If I grab both the ears at the same time and
twist them, I’ll find the amber,” Fiona said. She pushed on the ears.
“But they're made of stone,” Elspet said.
“I know that. But this is what I have to do.”
She twisted them again and they moved.
“Fiona, it’s working.”
When they were turned completely sideways, she
stepped back. The two eyes glowed with a filmy lime green light and then a
three-inch square opened up, sliding out of the mouth. On the end of it lay
the piece of amber. Fiona grabbed it. “I’ve got it! Let’s get out of here
before the demons come for us.” They turned to run.
A large form blocked their way. He wore a mask
in the shape of a bird’s head, the beak painted with red, blues and white
strips. Feathers stuck out of the top. A cotton skirt, like Tlaloc’s, hung
from his waist and he wore multiple turquoise and gold bracelets around his
ankles and wrists. A breastplate with stripes painted across, hung over his
bronzed chest that bulged with his muscles. He spoke in Maya, “You will come
with me. You stole our sacred stone.” The man reached out and grabbed
Fiona’s and Elspet’s wrists, dragging them across the stones. When they
reached the bottom of the pyramid, he stopped.
Fiona looked up. Black smoke erupted from the
top of it. Flames burst forth. When the smoke disappeared a dark form stood
there. He was a giant and had emerald teeth. The sun seemed to shine from
him as he shouted, “Xecotcovach. Xquiq!”
to free herself. “What is he saying? Is he going to kill us?”
The man, a high
priest named Mulacca, looked down at her through his mask. “He is summoning
the gods of Metnail.”
“She only speaks
English and can’t understand you?” Fiona muttered in Maya.
Come.” He pulled them up the steps toward the waiting demon. At the top,
Xibalba ripped the piece of amber from Fiona’s hand. He held it high, out of
her reach and laughed. Black smoke belched from his mouth. “He has come to
take you to the underworld.” The high priest's eyes bulged with evil.
“What’s with all
this underworld stuff. Oh no! He isn’t taking us anywhere. I challenge him,”
Fiona said, thinking it up as she went. “I challenge the gods of the
underworld to a contest.”
at the girl. His eyes showed surprise. He spoke to the two demons in ancient
Maya. Fiona understood every word. “The girl has challenged you, mighty
Xibalba to a contest.”
laughed. “What could the girl do that would be any challenge for me?”
Xibalba raised a curious eyebrow
“I can challenge
you to several things. If I win every time, you have to agree, swear an
oath, that you will let Elspet, Callum and me go. You must never come back
from the underworld while we’re here, and we get to keep the piece of amber.
Is it a deal?” Fiona found bravery with each word. Elspet heard her name and
gave Fiona a quizzical look. “Don’t worry. I’m trying to get us out of this.
Just stand there and be quiet and you’ll be all right.”
“A deal? Your
words are very odd. So be it,” Xibalba said. “What is your first challenge?”
about her powers. “I can grow as high as the clouds.” She nodded and grew,
stretching from the top of the pyramid to the bottoms of the rain clouds.
“You must do the same.”
laughed. In a towering pillar of black smoke, it reached into the sky,
passing Fiona and mingling with the clouds. Fiona noticed that when it hit
the clouds, its form disappeared and it became one with the cloud. “I can go
higher,” Fiona said. She grew another hundred feet. The demon could go no
higher. It lost its shape and had no choice but to stop. It shriveled up and
went back to the pyramid.
back down and stood next to Elspet. “Way to go, Fiona. I guess you’re having
a contest or something. You beat him.” She clapped her hands.
“That is only
one challenge. You must win all of them,” Xibalba roared.
“I can and I
will. I can make fire. I saw that you made fire, but my fire is stronger,”
Fiona said. She lifted her hands and fire appeared around the pyramid.
Yellow flames reached for them. Fiona felt the heat on her face.
Fiona. I don’t want to burn up,” Elspet whined. “Is this another contest?
How many are you going to do?”
“Elspet, just be
quiet for a few minutes and let me get rid of these guys,” Fiona whispered.
“You think you
can win? I am from Metnail. I can make fire far greater than yours.” The
demon raised both his hands. White fire burst forth from every pyramid in
the ancient city.
and then smiled. She commanded the clouds above them to send a light rain.
While Xibalba chanted to the demons of fire, Fiona doused his flames with
Hw moved next to
Fiona, pushing the high priest out of the way. “So you win again. I will
challenge you this time. What is it you desire to prove? Why let you choose?
You chose two. Now I will choose two things. It is only fair.”
smell of his smoky body nauseated Fiona. “As you wish. What is your
Xibalba said in
a low voice, “I will call forth the jaguar, the snakes, and the iguana.” He
raised his arms and chanted. Roars of the jaguars filled the air. The
slithering of snakes as they rushed through the trees, grasses and bushes,
was muffled by the stomping of tiny iguana feet. All around the bottom of
the pyramid they came. Snakes of every size, shape and color stood on end
and danced to the demon’s chants. The iguana’s tongues darted from their
mouths, lapping the air and hissing. The black shapes of dozens of jaguars
poured into the ruins. They stood around the bottom, snarling and groaning.
“There. I have called the animals. What can you do better?”
“Not the jaguars
again,” Elspet cried.
Fiona laughed. “Is this the best you can do?”
She sent out a message to every parrot, every macaw, flamingo, quail, ibis,
stork, hummingbird and great curassow. They flew into the ruins in a rainbow
of color. They dove at the iguana, taking bites from their scaly flesh. The
larger birds picked up the snakes by their tails and swung them around,
swirling through the air and letting go. They crashed into the trees, fell
into the rivers and splattered on the rocks. The small birds nipped at the
jaguars, poking their beaks into their bodies. Every animal darted away,
leaving the birds as victorious. Their chattering and squawking deafened the
demons. When Fiona was sure Xibalba and Mulacca realized she had won once
again, she sent the birds away with a thank you.
Before he had another chance to select, Fiona
commanded the clouds to burst forth with lightning and thunder and
treacherous rains and hail. She and Elspet took cover under a slab of stone.
The demons watched in shock and surprise as the rains lightened up and
“You are very powerful, girl,” Xibalba said.
“My name isn’t girl, it’s Fiona and don’t forget
it,” she said. “Now, unless you want me to call them back, I suggest you
give me the amber and let us leave.”
He dropped the piece of amber on the sacrificial
slab of stone and the demon looked at Mulacca. He disappeared into the
pyramid and went back to Metnail.
“Coward!” Elspet smiled, glad to be rid of
them. She was surprised when the high priest grabbed her and threw her down
on the slab.
He pulled a knife out of a slot in the stones.
“Stop it! Help me, Fiona!”
“Mulacca, or High priest, or whatever your name
is, I have no idea what your name is, but your god has left you here to
deal with my fury. He is a coward and ran away. Let go of my friend now, or
else I will have your eyes pecked out and your body crushed to powder. What
will it be? What is your choice?” Fiona stood defiant as the high priest
held the obsidian knife above Elspet’s head.
A flock of parrots flew from the trees to the
top of the pyramid and perched on the wall above Mulacca’s head. He dropped
the knife in defeat. It clanked against the stone. Fiona picked it up and
gave it to one of the parrots. It held the sharp stone knife in its beak and
flew away, dropping it into the nearest cenote. Without saying a word,
Mulacca ran down the steps of the pyramid. As he reached the bottom and was
about to step onto the ground, it opened up. Flames shot high into the air,
engulfing the high priest. Fingers of black smoke reached up and grabbed his
arms and legs, pulling him down into the fiery pit. It closed up after it
consumed him, leaving on the scent of charred flesh in the air. “Well,
that’s the end of him. I think the demon gods just took him to Metnail,”
“Let’s get out of this place. I’ve had it here.
We’ve got the amber. We’ve fallen into cenotes, been stalked by black
panthers, almost had our hearts cut out, and battled with ancient Maya
demons from the underworld. That’s enough for me. Remind me when we get home
to talk to whichever man shows us at Angus’s house. I have a few things to
say to him.” Fiona took Elspet’s hand and they slowly went down the steps of
the pyramid. When they got to the bottom, they stood on the ground softly,
ready to pounce back if the ground opened to swallow them. Nothing happened.
They reached the trees and stopped for one last
look. “I won’t forget this day any time soon,” Elspet said.
“Me neither. I can’t wait until we study Meso-America
in school. We’ll get the best grade for sure. Let’s find Callum. I’m sure
he’s getting frustrated trying to communicate with Tlaloc and he’s probably
still terrified that he’s going to be sacrificed.” Fiona laughed and the two
of them headed for the beach.
Elspet cautioned, “Let’s be sure where we step.
I don’t want to fall into another one of those water pits.”
“They’re called cenotes. Try not to forget. I
don’t want to be eaten by a panther or squeezed to death by a giant python,”