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Topic Subject: Beyond Poseidon's Throne - A Story Of Ancient Times
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posted 11-06-00 00:49 ET (US)   
A Story of Ancient Times and Ancient Mariners


Player Characters
AYTHADIS: The tall man.
BARTUC: 17 yr. old Tyrean boy and friend of Edes. Albino-like physical features. Free spirit. Has spot changeable cubes.
CEREK: 32 yr. old Spartan warrior. Dark hair, dark eyes, battle scarred. Seeks adventure.
COOK: Ship's cook. Secret real name: Yonah. Hebrew emigre. Has no knowledge of Yanil's secret.
CORONIS: Young woman, early 30's, braided brown hair and sharp green eyes. Ship's healer on the Nautica Prima.
EDES: A youth of Tyre. Nearly 19 years old.
EDUSSE: First mate. A Celt formerly named Flynn.
HAMID: An Arab crewman on the Phoenician trading ship. No. 1 Tillerman.
MACXUTEQUA: Aztec warrior
MEREDA: Tallish merchantlady/herbalist. Has violet eyes with gold highlights and long braided red hair.
NAUTICA PRIMA: Name of the Phoenician ship.
THANATOS: Thracian Ares-worshipper who stowed away on the Nautica Prima and who seeks a red jewel from the thief who stole it from a temple of Ares.
THANOS: Ne'er-do-well 21 yr. old, youngest son of an Athenian family. Joined ship's company at Ephesus.
YANIL: A 15 yr. old girl (now 16 yrs old) named Ilyena secretly disguised as a cook's boy. Coronis knows her secret. Aythadis learned it in MesoAmerica.
ZEOS: A burly seaman, slow witted with somewhat poor personal hygiene.

Non-Player Characters
BURNING MIRROR: Olmec spiritual and tribal leader.
IDOMENUS: Nicknamed "Old George". Captain of the Phoenician trading ship.
JADE RAIN: 18 yr. old Olmec girl and friend of Thanos.
RIVER SUN: 18 yr. old Olmec girl and friend of Bartuc.
SEVEN DEATH: Mayan High Priest of the city of Altun Ha.
THREE MONKEY: A 13 year old girl rescued by Thanatos from what seemed to be the attack of a wild animal.
VALYGAR: Sailor and assistant to Coronis. Seldom speaks.
OTHER UNNAMED CREWMEN: 10 each. Only 5 are left now due to the Aztec attack.

Team Writers: To find a summary of this story and to communicate with other writers, please use the thread found HERE

Members of the Writing Team: Benson, Caylynn, Civis Romanus, Cyber Paladin, Darthbane, Fortuna, Jaguar, Jayhawk, latus, Micah Aragorn, MRed94, Nutmegger, Smack, Windplume. All members of CH are welcome.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 01-23-2001).]

posted 12-22-00 07:41 ET (US)     151 / 220  
A few days later.

Macxutequa was arguing with one of the other Aztec, whose dress was nearly as rich as the Raid-leader's. The two of them were arguing loudly, but Thanos could not make out what they were saying. Too bad the potion Burning Mirror had made only translated the Olmec tongue. He looked at Shining Macaw, who briefly shook her head and continued listening. Whatever Coronis had done with her arm, nust have been good as she didn't seem to be in much pain.

Thanos wondered what had happened to Yanil. He liked the lad, who reminded him of his younger brother, and did not enjoy the thought of him being killed by some of the strange wild animals they had in this place. Even the small ones seemed to be dangerous, he grimaced at the memory of Shining Macaw pulling him away from a small spider. When he'd asked her what was it such a spider could do the Olmec girl told him it was poisonous enough to kill a man in moments.

Macxutequa threw up his hands in obvious disgust and stalked off. The other Aztec looked smug.

Shining Mirror turned towards her friends from the Nautica and whispered:
"They were arguing about the sacrifices. Huatemoc wants to keeps us until we reach the capital, Macxutequa wants to continue making sacrifces until they get there. I think Huatemoc got the advantage."

Thanos sighed, Coronis looked pale with relief. At least they'd have a chance. They must have a chance, Thanos clenched his hands as he looked to the green wall of jungle behind them.

posted 12-22-00 08:56 ET (US)     152 / 220  
"They were holding us in the prison in the south of their Altar.... The altar... is easy to spot, it has a lot of torches around...." Bursted a stream of words from Yanil, who tried hard to keep himself conscious as Aythadis kept fanning him. When Yanil began to feel better, Burning Mirror told a couple of young warriors to escort him back to the Olmec camp. The men was nearly dragging Yanil along as he is already over-exhausted.
"Let's move on." Whispered Burning Mirror.

After about half an hour travelling,
"Put off your torches!" Whispered Grimming Fang, the Olmec general. "Now I and my men will charge and create a diversion. If the Yanil character was right, you'll find the hostages. When you grab the guys, sound the siren arrow and we will retreat, leading them into a trap and ambush set right north. Then kill them all. And we are nice and safe."
"This man sounds cool~" Drooled Bartuc, who was immediately elbowed by Edes and Cerek, indicating he again talks too much.
"Now let's move." Whispered Grimming Fang, and his man followed him like a pact of wolves, ready to stalk on his prey.

"OK, it's show time buddy!" Zeos smiled. The stars were observing silently as the Phoenician soldiers sneak south to the back of the prison.

posted 12-22-00 18:18 ET (US)     153 / 220  
The attack group was well-organized. Thanatos, Cerek, Edes Zeos, and the main body of Olmec warriors advanced in the middle. Hamid and a few Olmecs took the flank. Bartuc stayed a little ways behind and to the side of the main group, a bolt ready on his crossbow.

The release of the crossbow bolt signalled the beginning of the confrontation. An enemy warrior was soon seen stumbing backwards, with the bolt sticking out of his chest. It was truly amazing that the Aztecs had not seen them yet. Now, though, everyone in the camp knew that something was afoot, alerted by the warrior's screams. A dozen Aztecs ran towards Grinning Fang and his men, who had formed a compact formation that curved back around the ends. While they fought, Hamid and the flank group rushed into the camp. Finding little resistance, they took the prisoners. Someone shot the special arrow, which made a loud whistling noise as it disappeared in the forest.
The main attack group retreated in the direction of an ambush party, which the flank group had already joined. They moved quickly, sandwiching the Aztec warriors between two ranks of men.

posted 12-24-00 00:35 ET (US)     154 / 220  
One Aztec warrior remained standing where all about him had fallen. Thanatos advanced to put an end to this warrior's obstinance. It is what Ares would want, thought Thanatos.

Burning Mirror and Aythadis, appalled at the slaughter ordered their respective men to cease fighting. It was an act of desperation on Aythadis' part knowing he could easily be accused of interference again. Yet, in this case he had not ordered an attack. This had all been the work of Burning Mirror, to which his captain and sailors had all subscribed. He couldn't have stopped them if he had tried. Yet this failure did not exactly bother Aythadis either. But Thanatos imminent attack on the remaining Aztec bothered him deeply. Nonetheless, the tall man was powerless to prevent what would happen.

Thanatos continued his advance on the Aztec. The Aztec warrior looked at his shattered weapon and knew full well he was left with nothing but his knife and courage to defend himself. This same knife had already failed his comrades and he expected it would fail him also, but he stood his ground and bravely waited for his fate. So it was with considerable surprise that he heard some among his enemies shout words that seemed to restrain their warrior.

The agent of Ares was himself surprised when Cerek jumped between Thanatos and the Aztec, shield in place and sword at the ready. If Aythadis wanted the slaughter stopped then he, Cerek, would be the one to stop it. This time there were no words between the two anatagonists. Cerek attacked...

Thanatos fought a desperate battle against the Spartan defending himself from blow after blow of Cerek's sword. It became clear that Cerek was indeed the better swordsman and would soon prevail. Meanwhile, Olmecs had surrounded and disarmed the captured Aztec warrior and now held him prisoner as the battle between Cerek and Thanatos continued.

Clang! Clang! Clunk! Clang! Thanatos fell to the ground under the persistent blows of Cerek's sword. He lay there, breathing heavily, shield mangled and lying on the ground out of his reach, his arms too heavy and weakened to lift his sword. Thanatos made his final vow to Ares and waited for Cerek's deathblow.

The Spartan's sword rose as the blow was prepared, then it descended on Thanatos. CLANG! It was another sword that deflected Cerek's blow and sent it harmlessly away from Thanatos.

"NO! Cerek, do not do this. It is wrong. Thanatos cannot help himself. STOP!" Edes voice attempted to block the thoughts of murder in Cerek's mind even as he attempted to block Cerek's sword with his. The enraged Spartan continued his onslaught this time aiming it at the unrecognized man preventing him from finishing the task he set out to do with Thanatos.

Rage blinded eyes did not see Edes, they saw every enemy Cerek was ever called upon to fight and defeat. And so he responded, fighting on until there was no strength left in him to fight anymore. It was when the Spartan could lift his arms no more and exhaustion drained the blinding hate that Cerek realized who he had been fighting. At last he lowered his sword and sat on the ground, the will to fight now gone.

Coronis walked over to him and cautiously began to wipe perspiration and grit from his face with a piece of cloth from her own clothing. He offered no resistance. He looked up only once to see her and then turned his eyes to Edes who stood nearby, sword sheathed. Then saddened and ashamed, Cerek lowered his eyes avoiding both.

Bartuc walked to Edes side. "Why did you do that Edes? He could have killed you."

"It was necessary, Bartuc. It was the right thing to do,"
responded the Tyrean.

"But why, Edes. Why do you constantly put yourself between those two?" Bartuc persisted.

"I have my reasons, Bartuc. Now let me be."

Burning Mirror meanwhile had reassured himself that his daughter was alive, though injured. In the interlude following the battle between Cerek, Thanatos and Edes, he had forced the sole remaining Aztec to reveal his name. Now before Aythadis, Burning Mirror said, "We know the name of this Aztec. He calls himself Macxutequa.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 12-24-2000).]

posted 12-31-00 05:28 ET (US)     155 / 220  
As Aythadis and Burning Mirror questioned Macxutequa the crew of the Nautica and the other Olmec warriors sought to comfort and refresh their injured. Coronis, although concerned for Cerek, turned her attention to Thanatos still lying on the ground. She went to his side and started to tend to a wound.

"I have no need of your help",pushing away Coronis' hand as she prepared to clean the wound." Go back to your victor!"

"Have you become such as a god that your wounds will magically heal themselves?",Coronis replied.

"You should have no concern about me."

"Why not?"

"Because I care not what happens to any of you. I am here for only one thing. To find the jewel taken from the Temple of Ares!"

"And so far you have found no proof that any of us has this jewel."replied Coronis."Why do you pursue it so."

"It gives me purpose.", matter-of-factely Thanatos answered her back." And I will fulfill my duty to Ares". With that last promise Thanatos rose on his own power and walked away from Coronis' questions.

All she could do as he walked away was to shake her head in bewilderment at what motivation pushed Thanatos to this brink of absolute abandonement for his fellow mankind.

posted 01-02-01 10:38 ET (US)     156 / 220  
As she walked away from Thanatos Coronis noticed Burning Mirror attending his daughter Shining Macaw. The girl had an anxious look on her face as her father examined her arm. The older man had unwrapped the splint and was feeling the bones and tracing the arteries of her arm, while mumbling just under his breath. His other hand held a small bundle of burning copal wood, it's pungeant smoke tickled Coronis nose as she walked towards the pair.

Shining Macaw grimaced then gingerly flexed her broken arm. Coronis jaw dropped to her knees. Picking up her skirt rushed up to the pair of them.
"What...what did you just do?" She stammered.
"That arm was broken... Could, could you please teach me?"

Burning Mirror looked at the young woman and shook his had.
"I'm sorry but I can't."
"Why not? I need to learn, such medicine must be shared. You can not keep it to yourself."
Coronis staped her feet on the grass in frustration.
The older man smiled at her and said,
"But that is where you are mistaken. This isn't medicine, this is an act of the gods. I can not teach them to listen to you, unless I teach you to listen them first and that teaching takes a life time."

Aythadis who'd joined them nodded and said to Coronis
"Each land, each people has it's own ways. In the west people try to make the gods do what they want instead of doing what the gods want. Here people listen to the gods and so the gods are willing to hear them.
I don't think we can change the people in the west, though."
Coronis looked at the tall man with his green eyes and muttered.
"It still isn't fair."
She barely caught the whisper Aythadis spoke.
"No one promised it would be fair."
She didn't think she'd been meant to hear the pain in his voice, though. It made her wonder.

posted 01-02-01 16:23 ET (US)     157 / 220  
Thanatos looked back over his shoulder at Coronis as he walked away. Meddling woman, he thought silently. This is my business and Ares' business. She has no right to question me and I have no obligation to answer her questions.

But as Coronis attended to Cerek and then suddenly rushed over to where Burning Mirror was assisting his daughter, Thanatos made it a point to slowly, casually walk somewhat near to where the young man, Edes, was standing with Edes' ever-present white-faced friend.

Thanatos paused near Edes, but not too closely, for he saw the young man's right hand tighten on the hilt of the Spartan sword hung at his waist the closer Thanatos came. Thanatos looked at Edes and then wordlessly nodded his head just once. Then the Ares' worshipper walked towards the edge of the area and sat down. Three sailors near where Thanatos sat promptly walked away and found a new place to stand and wait for their orders. Thanatos noticed the expressions of dislike on their faces, but he didn't care. Ares' take them, the insignificant fools!

"What was that all about?" asked Bartuc.

"He was thanking me for saving his life," answered Edes.

"Well you could have fooled me!" said Bartuc in a voice dripping with sarcasm.

"No one will be fooled for much longer," observed Edes, who then walked over to speak with Zeos. Bartuc stared after his friend now more puzzled than before.


"Are you the gods who appeared on the waters riding the great river boat?" asked Macxutequa.

"We are of the boat," replied Aythadis. Macxutequa looked down at his bound hands.

"Why are you here?" asked the Aztec.

"We have been sent to this land by one of the gods," answered Aythadis. "We are from the lands beyond the great waters." Aythadis pointed towards the west.

"Why are you here?" repeated Macxutequa. Aythadis seized the opportunity.

"We come to give a message to the Aztecs... Cease preying on the peoples who live around you, enslaving them and using their young children for your sacrifices. The gods do not approve."

Macxutequa shook his head. "That is not what our priests say."

"Are your priests gods?" retorted the tall man.

"They do not claim to be gods, just that they speak for the gods," said the Aztec.

"Then when the gods themselves speak to the Aztecs, should not the priests be silent and listen as well?" said Aythadis.

"That is so," agreed Macxutequa. He raised his head and studied the mysterious tall man with the green eyes standing in front of him. "Are all of you from the boat gods? Are you the chief god among them?"

"That is for you to decide now that you have heard the message. Decide correctly and your people shall survive. Decide wrongly and your nation shall be destroyed, its people scattered and all of your cities will become ruins."
The Aztec scanned the strange bearded men with their never before seen weapons and various pieces of dulled or gleaming body armor.

Macxutequa turned his head back to look at Aythadis. "How shall I carry this message to my people if I am bound and held prisoner?"

"You will be freed and may return to your city." Aythadis and Burning Mirror both raised their hands to still the angry murmuring coming from the men behind them who bore no good will towards the Aztecs.

Macxutequa hesitated momentarily. "It shall be as you want. I will carry the message to my people and will see that it is inscribed in our lessons and legends. But I cannot do much more. It will be for the king and the priests, now and to follow, to decide if what you say shall be done or not."

"Yes it shall," agreed Aythadis. At a nod from Aythadis, Burning Mirror drew a small knife from under his clothing and cut the vines that bound the Aztec's hand. Macxutequa rose to his feet and looked first at Burning Mirror and then at Aythadis. The warrior bowed to them both and then turned. The Aztec set out for his city at a steady run and soon disappeared into the lush green forest.

Burning Mirror turned to Aythadis. "Will he do as you ask?"

Aythadis nodded. "Yes, my friend, he shall. But I fear the priests may not be so willing." Aythadis' green eyes took on a far away look. "Yes, there will come a time when Macxutequa's people will be judged by their acts; but whether by the gods or not will be unclear for centuries afterwards..." Then Aythadis' eyes refocussed and he spoke directly to Burning Mirror. "It's time we return these people to your village and ourselves to our vessel, don't you think?"

Burning Mirror smiled and nodded and so preparations began to return to the Olmec village. On the walk back, Yanil manuevered himself to a place at Edes' side. When Edes looked down, Yanil could not help but smile at Edes. The young swordsman smiled back, but his mind remained occupied by a myriad series of oddly disjointed thoughts about Cerek, Thanatos, the red jewel of Ares, a black cat-beast... and Yanil.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 01-02-2001).]

posted 01-03-01 14:45 ET (US)     158 / 220  
The cook took a moment to sit down on a near-by stone and gather his thoughts. Despite the lush foliage and exotic animals, this was no Garden of Eden. The people in this distant land were no better than the people in his homeland. With all men created in God's image, this thought should not surprise him, noted the cook, but it discouraged him none the less. His young ward, Yanil, was somehow different, since being "marked". The cook did not know what to make of the difference, but new things disagreed with the cook, and this was definitely new. Coronis also had grown pensive and moody since watching Burning Mirror heal Shining Macaw's arm. She had worked so hard to be a healer and was now being faced with doubts as to the worth of her knowledge. The cook did not know what to make of Thanatos at all. The war-god follower was so full of mistrust and malice, that he had lost all wonder. He was in the midst of a strange land, but was lost in quests held over from another world. Even the cook faced new challenges. He was no fighter, and so could not easily assist the battle with the Aztecs, and the women villagers did not easily welcome the assistance of a foreign man to help them cook with ingredients he was unfamiliar with. (He suspected that their husbands were not all that pleased either.) As a result, he had done his best to keep his journal current, and offered assistance where ever a spare hand could be used. He would be needed again before the voyage was finished, he knew that. So he observed and bided his time as patiently as he was able.
posted 01-03-01 16:16 ET (US)     159 / 220  
Walking by with Yanil on one side and Bartuc on the other, Edes saw Cook taking a rest on a flat stone. "Hail Cook, no time to rest... there's a meal to be made at the end of this walk," said the young Tyrean jauntily. Then Edes stopped for just a brief moment and said in a lowered voice, "And we all miss your shipboard chow, too..." Edes winked and returned to his place between the two youngsters.

Cook smiled despite himself. That Edes, he thought. You never know what he's going to say or do next. With that, Cook rose to his feet and rejoined the group of sailors and Olmecs as they returned to the village of Burning Mirror. One more turn in the path and they would be... at... the... village... Aythadis, Burning Mirror and the others came to a halt in the path just as it entered the Olmec village.

Where is everyone?

The village was empty, save for one Olmec with a withered leg who was limping up the path as fast as his gimpy leg would permit. Burning Mirror stopped the panic stricken villager who pleaded to be set free. The Olmec chief complied but not until the man stuttered out what had happened.

Aythadis wordlessly motioned to Idomenus who in turn told one of the sailors to quickly go and check on the Nautica Prima. The sailor took off at a dead run. Meanwhile, Burning Mirror turned about in his place and appeared to be listening for something. He heard nothing... and that frightened him even more. In fact, there was not a sound to be heard but shuffling feet and breathing noises coming from the men behind him.

Aythadis turned his piercing green eyes on Burning Mirror. "What has happened, my friend? What is wrong?"

Burning Mirror said little, but it was enough. "Mar-ra-bun-ta... They come. My people have fled. This man cannot run and so fell behind the others." Aythadis' brows knit into a deep frown. Idomenus stepped closer. "What is this 'Marrabunta'," he asked the tall man.

Frown deepening, Aythadis replied, "Ants... an army of ants. Idomenus appeared confused. "Ants? Why fear these little creatures?"

Aythadis looked at Idomenus. "Individually, they are no threat. Massed like an army, these ants are killers. Nothing living can withstand them."

Burning Mirror became increasingly animated and gestured while speaking towards Edes and Yanil. Ayathadis looked in their direction, then turned to Idomenus once more. "Burning Mirror says there is one way to stop the ants. There is a passage between where the ants originate and these lands. It is at the foot of a fire mountain. Once, his people saved their lands and themselves by awakening the fire god. When awakened the god drew burning earth from the belly of the mountain and cast it down on the army of ants. The creatures perished and since then have not been seen until now.

"How did they awaken the fire god?" asked the captain.

Aythadis asked the question of Burning Mirror and was answered. "Two who were 'touched' by the gods entered the mountain as a sacrifice. That's all he can say as he doesn't know what the two did to awaken the fire god."

Idomenus shook his head. "We have no such 'touched' persons among us and you know we do not sacrifice our kind."

"But there are two such persons," he said. "Edes and the boy, Yanil. They show the mark of the great cat. And yes, we do not sacrifice our own, but we call on our own for acts of bravery that may be interpreted as sacrifices in their own way. That is why Burning Mirror points to the two of them." Aythadis expression became something inexplicable as his mind considered the problems before them.

Just then the sailor sent to check on the ship ran into their midst. "Captain... the ship... its gone! I found this..." The sailor handed Idomenus an object decorated colorfully with feathers from an exotic jungle bird. Aythadis looked the object over. It was not Aztec. He handed it to Burning Mirror who nodded in agreement. "These are not Aztec... The ones who have your boat are..." All within earshot leaned in, straining to hear Burning Mirror's words.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 01-03-2001).]

posted 01-03-01 16:43 ET (US)     160 / 220  
Suddenly everyone heard a high-pitched scream from in the jungle. Edes ran towards the sound. As he entered a small clearing, he saw a small, young girl, and noticed Thanatos chasing something away from her. He helped the young girl to her feet, and inquired as to what had attacked her, after noticing a long, thin, shallow wound on her arm. She was too shocked to form coherent sentences, and simply kept repeating "The beast....the beast...."

Athaydis turned to Burning Mirror, and said "So, who left this here?" whilst pointing at the object. Burning Mirror turned from offering comforting words to the young girl and said.....

posted 01-04-01 04:52 ET (US)     161 / 220  
"It's Mayan, " Burning Mirror answered.
"The people of the South and the Great Cities of Gold there. They have a port city in Altun Ha and may have taken your canoo there, but to get there we must either cross the swamps of Sian Ka'an or the jungles next to it. We cannot go by canoo as the reefs are to dangerous to travel.
However, we have the ants to deal with first."

The older Olmec had healed the wound on the little girl's arm and with his hand on her shoulder walked back to the others.

Aythadis was looking at Thanatos, however.
The young man had actually acted out of mercy and not hate. He did not have any reason to help the girl yet he had. The green eyes focused and looked inside the hard youth. A shape could be seen about him, strong and supple, dark with green eyes. Aythadis blinked.
"Thanatos, " he spoke, "you have been touched by the Jaguar as well haven't you?"

posted 01-04-01 11:49 ET (US)     162 / 220  
Thanatos looked at Aythadis and the others somewhat sheepishly. "It's just a scratch. The beast turned once in its flight and struck me with its paw... a foolish error on my part. I was following too closely while I was trying to drive it away. Is the girl safe and well?"

Aythadis nodded. "She is safe. Her injuries are minor and healing. Why would you concern yourself with this person? She couldn't possibly be of any interest to Ares or his worshipper."

Thanatos shifted his feet uneasily. He was aware of many pairs of eyes focussed on him and many pairs of ears waiting to hear his answer. "I just... well it seemed... she..." Then his expression hardened. "No... She is not a concern of mine or Ares. I should not have bothered..."

But his words were interrupted by the young girl's unexpected appearance before him. She was dark haired, dark-eyed and pretty in the way of the Olmecs. She was slender in build, the appearance of womanhood barely noticeable; and she could not be more than a day older than twelve years.

The girl slowly approached Thanatos and stopped close enough to be able to reach for and take the Ares worshipper's right hand in both of hers. She brought the back of his hand to her forehead and gently placed it there for a briefly sustained moment staring deeply into the warrior's eyes. Then she returned his hand to his side, bowed and walked away. Not a word was spoken, but all understood the gesture of gratitude so displayed.

Thanatos' expression changed once more, but this time he found no words to accompany it. He looked once at Aythadis and then turned and looked at the others. Head lowered, confusion flooding his troubled mind, Thanatos walked away from the group to find a place of solitude in which to wage war with his conflicting thoughts.

Aythadis and Burning Mirror watched as he left, then turned their attention once more to problem of the ants and the need to awaken the god of the fire mountain.

posted 01-05-01 06:25 ET (US)     163 / 220  
Later that evening the Olmecs and their guests were eating a simple meal beneath the communal palalpa.

The girl, whose name was Three Monkey, looked at Burning Mirror and spoke in a clear voice.
"Wise One, I will travel to the Mountain of Fire and offer myself to the gods."
Burning Mirror nodded,
"But who will go with you?" he wondered.
"The Man in Black will accompany me, I am sure the gods meant it this way."

Aythadis smiled as Thanatos looked up.
"I will not go to any stupid mountain, not for any stupid god," the young man said in a low voice.
"Are you scared? Are you afraid your god won't protect you? " Bartuc taunted from the other side of the low table.
Thanatos flushed scarlet and rose, his hand reaching for his sword. Bartuc grabbed for his crossbow as Edes rose said quietly,
"I will accompany the girl if she will let me."

Thanatos hesited.
He looked at Bartuc who was grinning insolently.
He looked at Edes, whose expression seemed guarded rather than challenging.
He looked at Aythadis and Burning Mirror, both their faces an impassive mask.
Lastely he looked at Three Monkeys and saw something in those dark brown eyes he could put a name to. It was a challenge he decided after a pause, then he sat down again.
"I will join her. No one will say the Sword of Ares is afraid. No one."

Burning Mirror looked at Aythadis, who shrugged, then smiled.
"The gods weave as the gods will, Burning Mirror, no matter where they're from."
The Olmec Wise One returned the smile and asnwered.
"And it's a bright tapestry they weave."

The next morning Thanatos reluctantly follwed the Olmec girl on to the jungletrail. He carried a small pack with some supplies and his full armour and weapons. Three Monkey wore not much more than the white shift she had the day before, her pouch held some food and her sandals hardly left a print on the path.

As the disappeared from view Corinis asked Aythadis.
"Why? Why did he go? Is it pride that guides him?"
The tall man smiled
"I'd say it's Fate that drives him. I wonder where it will take them."

posted 01-05-01 16:21 ET (US)     164 / 220  
Thanatos was leading Three Monkey through a particularly thick area of forest, when something strange started to happen. The trees seemed to fade and become blurry, and then become solid and extremely sharply defined. Thanatos stumbled, and grabbed a solid tree for support. Three Monkey noticed this, and asked him if he was alright.

"I'm fine!" he barked abruptly at Three Monkey, and immediately regretted doing so. Then, after a minute or so, everything started to spin. Thanatos' head felt as though it was going to explode violently, like it had for several hours, although before it had been much less noticeable. Now, there was a chance that it was going to explode. Realising that Three Monkey was watching, he took two steps forward, drew himself up to his full height, turned to Three Monkey, said "Let's keep going", and turned back round, but instead of seeing trees, he saw his view fading into darkness, and then the world disappeared.

posted 01-05-01 21:22 ET (US)     165 / 220  
Thanatos awakened. He was lying on a soft cushion of piled up jungle leaves. One hand lay by his side, the other was being held in the right hand of a young Olmec girl... Her name sneaked its way back into his mind from deep within his foggy memory... Three Monkey.

"What happened?" he asked.

"Sick... jungle fever. Drink." The girl pressed the edge of a hollowed out gourd to the man's lips and slowly tipped the container. Cool liquid with a sweet yet indefinably odd taste slowly poured into his mouth. Without protest he swallowed and he felt the liquid flow down his throat and begin to both warm and cool his inside at the very same time. Strength began to return to his legs and the dizziness he felt before seemed to become distant and irrelevant.

"What is this you gave to me?" he asked Three Monkey.

"A medicine known to my people. It chases jungle fever away. They say it is learned from the gods. Are you better now?"

"Yes, I am. Thank you." Thanatos was surprised at how willingly he had thanked the girl. It was not his way to thank anyone. What he received was due him, good or bad, the will of Ares... or so he had thought before.

"We will rest," said Three Monkey.

"But only for awhile," replied Thanatos. "We must do what we came here to do."

"There will be time. We rest now."

Thanatos did not protest. He gazed at the young girl for awhile even as she returned his gaze with a youthful, sincere, fresh smile. He did not remember falling asleep, but it had happened none the less.

Thanatos awoke hours later. He turned his head only to find that Three Monkey lay beside him, as sound asleep as he had been. The Ares-worshipper let her sleep though he felt fit to travel once more. It was the least he could do for the kindness she had shown him. There was time enough for them to deal with the god of the fire mountain. For now, Thanatos was content to ponder the change within that seemed to have him in its grip... and to let the girl-child sleep.

posted 01-08-01 06:44 ET (US)     166 / 220  
Thanatos watched the stars come out, followed by a wan looking moon. A woman's face seemed to be watching him from the moon as he sat and oiled his sword. Suddenly Three Monkey stirred. He looked down at the girl who opened those incredibly dark eyes and smiled at him.

"Are you feeling better?"
They spoke simultaneously, then the girl's clear laughter pealed through the moon-dark forest. Three Monkey rose and Thanatos followed her example.
"Do we continue?" he asked.
"Yes, if you are up to it?" the girl replied.
"I'm fine, "Thanatos started it as a growl, then realised he actually was feeling fine. Whatever was in the gourd had also leeched away most of the tension he'd been feeling ever since he'd set out from Ares shrine in far-away Thracia so very long ago. He flexed his muscles then sheethed his sword.
"Yes, I'm fine. " he spoke in a milder tone.
"Let's go."

The two of them followed the path into the trees again. Three Monkey rubbed some toadstools together that started giving of a soft muted glow, barely rich enough to see where they were going. The path started to climb and bits of rock peeked through the undergrowth more frequently.
Suddenly Thanatos saw a huge face appear from the bushes near teh path. His hand went to his sword, but the girl steadied him.
"Hush, it's only a statue."

As Thanatos got closer he saw the figure was indeed a statue, if not more than a giant's head. Big and dark with large great eyes and a flat nose.
It looked somehow out of place.
It looked...Nubian, he thought.
More of them could be seen bordering the path.
"What are they?" he murmered.
"Ancestors, " Three Monkey replied.
"The gods sent them too from across the seas in great canoes. They're skins were dark as the night."
Thanatos stared in wonder until the girl pulled him along.

The forest thinned and a glow could be seen up ahead. The top of the mountain bathed in a glow like molten iron, the breeze carried with it a wisp of sulpher.
"Is that the mountain?" Thanatos asked his companion.
"Yes, that is the Mountain of Fire. We follw the path up and find the path leading down. There should be a small altar near it, halfway up the slope."

The two of them walked on. Three Monkey seemed mesmerised by the mountain. Thanatos was of two minds, on the one he felt a sense of liberation, on the other a nameless dread.

posted 01-08-01 15:57 ET (US)     167 / 220  
A deep rumbling interrupted Thanatos twin-minded introspection. Three Monkey put her hand out and grasped Thanatos' arm above the wrist halting the warrior in midstride.

"The Mountain knows we are here. The god shall want to know our purpose," she said. The ground below their feet trembled slightly adding a little unsteadiness to their walk as they resumed their advance up the winding path.

Blackish brown stone now lined the edges of the path and could be seen scattered all about the increasingly sparse vegetation. Some stones were as small as tree nuts, other stone was the size of buildings and balanced precariously on the steepening slope of the mountain. Thanatos stopped, bent down and picked up one of the fruit-sized stones. The stone was rough-surfaced and densely populated with small holes. It seemed much lighter than it should be for its size.

Three Monkey again touched his arm. "It is not wise to disturb these stones as they are of the Mountain itself. We must hurry to the Sacred Place to tell the god of the Fire Mountain why we have come. We are not safe until we do."

Thanatos nearly dropped the stone from his hand, then thought a little more about what Three Monkey said. Carefully, he lowered his hand and placed the stone in the same place from which he had withdrawn it. Then shifted the stone to resemble the position in which he found it, that is, to the best of his recollection. The Mountain rumbled again, maybe in response to the care he took in returning the stone to its place. Then again, maybe it was in anger at Thanatos for disturbing it. The Ares-worshipper wasn't sure. Both he and Three Monkey increased their pace and soon found themselves approaching the altar Three Monkey spoke of.


Idomenus approached Aythadis as they, the sailors and the remaining Olmecs journeyed to the place where the marabunta were said to be gathering. "Aythadis, have you seen Cerek or Edes?"

"No, Captain. I have not," the tall man with the green eyes replied.

"And Bartuc and Yanil seem to be missing as well."

"I have not seen them either."

"Where could they be?" asked the Captain.

"Where they must go, for the reasons each has," was Aythadis' cryptic reply.

The Captain looked at Aythadis with an odd expression bordering on curiousity layered over confusion. Now what, pray tell, does he know that he won't say? The Captain knew better than to ask, so he shook his head and took a position near his first mate, Edduse, who was engaged in a lively conversation with Cook about the cooking of certain fruits and flora found in this strange land.

posted 01-09-01 05:16 ET (US)     168 / 220  
Thanatos and Three Monkey reached the end of the path. Before them, glowing with a reddish haze was what only could be called a mouth in the side of the mountain. Richly carved basalt enclosed an opening, The stone was carved with eyes and teeth looking for all the world as if they had to go down the maw of some huge creature.

The Ares disciple steeled himself against a touch of fear. His master would not allow him to waver. He, who had been taught to face his fears since he was two years old, could not turn back. Three Monkey looked up at him, the light making her face seem a golden mask.
"Come, " she said and tuggeed him onward into the jaws of the god.

Someone had painstakingly plastered the walls and painted them in garish colours. Man like figures in dressed in feathered cloaks and wearing amazing jewelry watched the two of them go down into the mountain. The plaster was cracked in some places, completely missing in others. Where it was missing the bare rock seemed to pulse in the red light.

The red light, Thanatos realised, seemed to come from nowhere at all. Three Monkey still held his hand and the girl seemed warmer than the air around them.
Sweat started to drip from Thanatos' brow as thedescended deeper into the mountain.

After about an hour and a half, a ridiculously long time, Thanatos thought, for the mountain could not be that big, the reached the end of the tunnel.
The room they entered was made, carved out, of black basalt. Eyes stared at them from the richly carved walls, both of manshaped figures, strange creatures and of what Thanatos had come to recognize as words. The room ended in redness, a fiery light, shining behind a richly carved altarstone. As the moved closer a sound could be heard.

A low keening seemed to emit from the fiery opening. It rose involume until Thanatos thought his head would split then dropped back and a voice boomed.
"Behold Ixalotl"

A face dripping fire appeared at the back of the room, tongues of flame flitted up the sides of the face and fled across the ceiling.
"Doesn't he know who we are?" Thanatos whispered.
"He's a god isn't he?"
"Hush, " Three Monkey replied, "It's impolite not to introduce yourself."
"Lord Ixalotl, we are Three Monkey from Zama and Tan Atos from Over Sea. We are here to intercede for my people of Zama and ask your protection against the One that is Many."
"One that is what?"
"The ants, silly, now hush." the girl hissed.

"Are you willing to give yourself for your town?" the gods voice reverberated across the room.
"Yes" Three Monkeys replied.
The eyes fastened themselves on Thanathos, who still felt the girl's hand in his.
"I...I...oh, Cerberus take me. I do give myself for that stupid town."

The face smiled and lava started to flow over the edge of the room. Thanatos wanted to run out of the room, but Three Monkey still held his hand and his feet seemed rooted to the ground.

The lava gushed out and closed in on the two mortals. Thanatos felt it touch his feet, burn through his boots. He could hear someone screaming, then the burning rock ate away through his feet and smelled roasting meat. His throat felt like it was on fire and then he passed out.

posted 01-09-01 05:30 ET (US)     169 / 220  
The lush vegetation of the jungle floor truly fascinated Coronis. How could these plants produce the magical effects she had witnessed healing or soothing pain? Or was it exactly that....magic! No it couldn't have been. Her mind wandered through every possible way to make sense of it. In the end every aspect led back to one....the gods of Burning Mirror.

His gods were different from hers. Her gods seemed to do things to amuse or appease themselves. And if humans did not perform to their expectations would send one of their own to deal harshly with them. But Burning Mirror's gods gave and did things to help their existance be easier while asking only for devotion. Or at least SHE thought so. She had to learn more about them.

Deep in thought, Coronis was unaware of who or what was quietly approaching her.

"You shouldn't be here by yourself!", Coronis heart seemed to jump from her chest into her throat as the familiar voice broke her deep concentration.

With a scolding tone she replied,"you frightened me!".

"I'm sorry Coronis. It wasn't my intentions",replied Cerek.
"But you still should not be out here alone especially with the ants gathering and the beast still out here."

"I'm okay. Besides I am not THAT far from the others. But what brings you away from the camp?"

"To look for Edes."


Cerek's voice resembled more a repentive characteristic than his usual confidence."I have yet to apologize for my actions against him. I cannot nor will not rest until I erase the shame I brought upon myself because of Thanatos."

"You have nothing to be shameful about, Cerek." Coronis' voice nurturing him. "You stopped Thanatos from furthering a senseless slaughter. Nothing would have been gained from the death of that lone Aztec."

With remorse Cerek replied," But to further the struggle against Edes was wrong. I felt myself unable to stop the anger that had welled up inside me and I used it against someone I cared about. Has my Spartan culture taught me so much about self preservation that I would seek to destroy any who opposes me?"

"No Cerek," Coronis left hand reaching out to Cerek's arm to comfort him,"No. Edes knew what he was doing. And what your friendship means to him. What he did was to protect what is inside you. That which makes up Cerek."

"And you Coronis? Have I shamed myself in YOUR eyes." Cerek's gaze now focused on her face as a hint of sunlight broke thru the canopy of trees and shimmered on the green eyes that had captivated him.

Coronis moving closer to him and resting her right hand upon his chest felt the barriers in her heart melt away. "I have tended the wounds that your armor could not shield on that tough Spartan hide and have seen the softness of the inner man. No Cerek, I see no shame about you."

As she stared up at him he found he could no longer resist. The tightness in his muscles seemed to relax and he found himself putting the fingers of his right hand under her soft chin. Slowly he bent down and with being offered no resistance placed a tender kiss upon the lips that formed the soothing words.

As the kiss ended they gazed into each others eyes and no words needed to be spoken. But reality soon returned and Cerek was the first to break their moment.

"We should head back."

"Yes." The only reply Coronis was able to give.

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 01-09-2001).]

posted 01-09-01 05:32 ET (US)     170 / 220  
The air smelled of flowers and wet soil.

He could here bird sing somewhere.

There was something in his clenched hand.

Thanatos opened his eyes and looked down. His black boots looked like they did yesterday. He moved his toes. Then he lifted his hand and realised he was still holding Three Monkey's hand. The girl was fast asleep beside him.

He had never seen anything so beautiful, the dark hair flowing down her back. Her skin a dusky brown. Her eyes as dark as the rock crystal the Thracians favoured.

Her eyes?

With a start he realised she was awake and watching him. As he pulled back from those luminous eyes he relasied she was smiling.
She still was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

"What? " he mumbled.
"What happened?"
"The god accepted our offer."
"But the lava..."
"We were offering ourselves to him. He took our pain as the offering, but allowed us our lives."
Thanatos frowned, then he heard voices.

"There they are! " Yanil cried as he dragged Edes behind him. The two of them were followed by Bartuc, who wore a suprised expression.
Thanatos wondered why.
"We saw the fire spew from the mountain." Yanil bubbled.
"It destroyed the ants and saved the village. We were so close we could feel the heat. It was so beautiful that bright rock flowing down. You won't believe what it did."
The boy stopped himself and looked at Thanatos, who was still holding Three Monkey's hand.

"Of course you know what it did," he mumbled and sat down.
From his pack he drew fruit and gourds filled with juice and water.
"How did you find us?" Thanatos wondered.
"Aythadis told us to follow you" Bartuc answered.
"Aythadis? " Thanatos face clouded.
"Didn't that meddlesome twit think I'd go through with it? Did he think I'd run?"

Bartuc scowled but it was Edes that answered the angry young man before them.
"No, Thanatos, he did not. He asked us to bring you food and drink, for he thought you might be thirsty and hungry."
Thanatos flushed and grabbed a gourd to hide the others from seeing his discomfort.
Drat the man, he thought, always he seems to be one step before me. Then he wondered, who is Aythadis?

[This message has been edited by Jayhawk (edited 01-09-2001).]

posted 01-09-01 05:37 ET (US)     171 / 220  
Phew, Micah, that was a close call. Luckily I needed only a minor edit on the second post.
Your's does make a nicer break between the two of mine, though. Makes it sort of a cliff hanger
posted 01-09-01 16:17 ET (US)     172 / 220  
"Thank you," said Thanatos, his thirst quenched and hunger eased. Three Monkey nodded her thanks as well. Refreshed they both rose to accompany Edes and the others back to the camp.

The marabunta were indeed gone. Here and there a bird's song could be heard once more. With each passing hour more and more creatures could be heard calling. It seemed as if they were telling each other life could return to normal now that the threat of the ants had ended. The mountain continued to rumble from time to time as if to say, "I too am here... Do not forget... Do not forget."

Indeed, the Olmec did not forget. A great festival was held in their village now filled once more with Burning Mirror's people. They had much to celebrate: the defeat of the Aztecs; the return of Burning Mirror's daughter; the destruction of the ants; the courage of Three Monkey and Thanatos; and last, but not least, the coming of the bearded ones in the great canoe.

Torches dipped in a dark, viscous liquid gave off continuous flame and no small quantity of black smoke when lit by embers from the village campfire. Drums and flute-like instruments were played as all enjoyed one remarkably tasty exotic dish after another. Cook was beside himself with joy as he sampled one local delicacy after another and inquired into how each was made. The village women who prepared each dish were immensely flattered by the attention this from-faraway god of the banquet gave to them.

Then the story telling and dancing began. Three Monkey told the tale of their adventure up and into the mountain. She frowned and others drew in their breath as she retold how Thanatos had collapsed from jungle fever. Then the young girls and women among them turned red and giggled as Three Monkey told how she stopped Thanatos from shivering in his sleep despite the warmth of the air all about them. (Yanil threw Edes an unnoticed glance as Three Monkey spoke). Thanatos maintained dignified silence throughout and a calm outward appearance, that is, until Three Monkey talked about the stone.

The camp laughed out loud in boisterous fashion as Three Monkey told how she teased Thanatos about the rock and how he carefully placed it back on the ground in exactly the way he found it because he believed what she said about disturbing the god of the mountain. She apologized for the little joke she played on him. It was then Thanatos' face turned red as an Olmec-painted rock and he looked like he would become angry. The sailors and especially Edes held their collective breath waiting for the explosion to come.

Indeed an explosion came, but it was of mirth not anger, as Thanatos remembered how carefully he replaced the rock and... and... how silly he must have looked to Three Monkey. Thanatos started to laugh and very soon the camp was laughing uproariously with him.

Three Monkey smiled in appreciation of Thanatos' good humor then began the telling of the meeting with the god, the words spoken and their final moments as the red, fire-hot liquid earth swirled all about their feet. Then she told of their awakening by Edes, Yanil and Bartuc. She ended by praising the courage of Thanatos. All about the festival fire praised the courage of them both.

The music renewed itself and became louder, begging for the dancers to begin. The music was accomodated. Three Monkey was given the unusual honor for a girl of her age to begin the dance by selecting a partner. She rose, eyes focussed exclusively on Thanatos, walked towards him and held out her hands. Thanatos could not refuse the young girl with the soft dark brown eyes and sweet smile.

Yanil glanced once more at Edes. Already one of the village girls had presented herself to Edes for a dance. Others were looking in his direction. Once more, so long suppressed since the incident in the inn, the green bile of jealousy rose in Yanil's chest. "CURSE THIS SECRET! How long must I suffer with it!" Yanil screamed in his mind.

Tears began to well up again in his eyes. Secretly trying to wipe them away he saw Aythadis looking his way. The tall man's green eyes seemed to be looking right through to his soul. Yanil could not withstand Aythadis' look and so quickly rose to his feet and ran off into the dark of the village where there was no lamp or moon to light Yanil's face and reveal his tortured thoughts.

But Aythadis had seen Yanil's mind. He turned to Idomenus, seated to his left and said, "Tomorrow we must leave to find the Nautica Prima. It is time we seek a way to return home." Idomenus nodded his head, but in his mind remained this single most pressing question: How?

Yanil sat on the ground, his back against the mud coated wall of one of the village abodes. Unseen in the dark, he cried for each of the years of his young life, for the lonliness he felt and because of the secret he hid. So immersed in grief was Yanil in this dark place in the Olmec village, that he never realized that he had been followed...

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 01-09-2001).]

posted 01-10-01 04:09 ET (US)     173 / 220  
There was a pair of reflected light from the bush before Yanil, who was not in the shape of looking around.

"Man... The guy likes crying!" Bartuc, who was always observant (yet always careless), noticed the strange expression of Yanil at the party and followed her there. He is wondering if he should come out and talk with the crying boy.

As the crying of the young boy ceased to a soft weep, Bartuc knew he could and should leave. But as the white boy stool up from where he was squatting, he made some noise. And from Yanil's low alerting voice he knew he was discovered.
However, as he standed up and trying to explain why he had been "peeping", he saw Yanil was looking the other way. His eyes followed Yanil's and found a men-like figure quickly disappeared into the shadow of the bushes.

Not thinking twice, Bartuc came out from where he was hiding and approached Yanil.
"Who's that?"
"No idea...." Yanil's eyes were still water logged.
Suddenly Yanil realised that Bartuc must been watching, and her face flushed red.
From the sudden reddening of Yanil's face Bartuc knew he has done something wrong. So, quickly he switched topic.
"Oh, er.... Edes was looking for you..." he tried to trick her back.
Yanil did not answer, but drops after drops of tears are already running down his flawless cheek, which looks amazingly feminine in the eyes of Bartuc...
"Wow, come on Bartuc, he's a boy... A BOY!" Bartuc quickly extinguished the idea and grabbed Yanil's hand, trying to drag him along.
"Come on, Edes was looking for you~" Bartuc turned and started to walk.
But Yanil wriggled his hand to free himself from Bartuc's grip, Bartuc loosened and the tear soaked boy stood there, crying loudly. Bartuc could do nothing but simply watch, his jaw dropped in astonishment by the sudden outburst of Yanil and his mind confused.

[This message has been edited by Cyber Paladin (edited 01-10-2001).]

posted 01-10-01 11:09 ET (US)     174 / 220  
"I can't, Bartuc. I can't. I have lied to you all and look where it has gotten me. Crying in the dark hoping that nobody would find me."

"Come on, Yanil, it can't be that bad." Bartuc responded.

"Oh yes it can. My name is not Yanil. It's Ilyena. I didn't want anyone to know that I was a girl. Who would take a girl aboard a ship? I ran away from home because my parents wanted me to marry some oxhead that I couldn't stand. The only way out was on a ship and thus I cut my hair and started behaving as a boy."

Ilyena still hadn't stopped crying and Bartuc looked like his eyes were going to fall out of his head. "I knew it" he kept mumbling. Then in an unusually sober way, he put his arms around Ilyena and let her cry.

"So why is this such a big deal, Ilyena? Is it because you like Edes?"

Ilyena looked up in amazement. "How did you know?" "I always thought there was something unusual about you, but we all realized that you like Edes more than anyone else. We just didn't know the reason behind it. Come on. Let's see if one of the girls in town has a dress you can fit in. I bet you clean up nicely."

Bartuc went to look for someone who was Ilyena's size and when he returned, he let the two girls figure it out for themselves. As he returned to the party, Aythadis came up to him and smiled. "Thank you, Bartuc. I really think that she needed that." Aythadis was gone before a stunned Bartuc could respond. How did he know?

Meanwhile, Ilyena and the local girl, River Sun, managed to get Ilyena looking really pretty. River Sun even had a few nice necklaces that Ilyena could borrow. When they were done, you could not mistake Ilyena for a boy. There were butterflies in Ilyena's stomach, but she smiled and arm in arm, the two girls returned to the party.

Bartuc had found Edes as he was taking a break from the dancing. "Let's grab a couple of refreshments, Edes, I am a little hungry and very thirsty." "Did you find Yanil?" Edes asked. "Well, sort of." Bartuc replied, but before he could explain, two girls came from the huts. "Wow, I never knew she looked that pretty." Bartuc was pleased that Ilyena had returned to the party. "Who?" Edes wanted to konw, but Bartuc was ignoring him, trying to get the girls to come over to them. As they came closer, Edes' jaw dropped. "That, isn't, but, that's Yanil." he stuttered. "Yeah, but call her Ilyena. That's her real name. Wow, River Sun looks good too. Perhaps she'll dance with me." With that, Bartuc went up to the two girls and escorted them to Edes.

"Will you dance with me, Edes?" Ilyena was very nervous, but when Edes nodded, her eyes lit up and off they went.

[This message has been edited by Jaguar (edited 01-10-2001).]

posted 01-10-01 13:17 ET (US)     175 / 220  
The Cook had been busy with the feast. With destruction of the ants, the village women had used every spare hand, even his, to prepare for the celebration that followed. As he watched each dish prepared, he sampled everything, and did his best to remember ingredients. He knew it would be hopeless, but felt obligated to at least try. As each dish was finished, the women would call him over and request that he carry the heaping bowls to the feasting area that had been prepared. Whatever the women thought of a man doing "women's work", they were not above letting him do the heavy lifting. The cook had just put down a bowl filled with a spicy stew, filled with tubers and gourd-like vegetables, with "dumplings" made of flour ground from a local root, and was turning to go back to the women. His brain stopped him. Something was different. The cook turned and scanned the crowd. Crew members and Olmecs gathered in assorted mixtures. It was as chaotic as any festival scene back in his native lands. There, a new face, a girl, but not a native. The cook gasped. Yanil? But not Yanil. Who was this girl? Quickly, the cook searched out Coronis. She too looked different. As if she had bloomed like one of the local flowers. Was the whole world shifting beneath him. The cook sank, not so gently or gracefully, on to the nearest bench, and tried to make sense of the world. For now, at least, the world did not seem willing to cooperate.
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