Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

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Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby AlternateTorg » Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:32 pm

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10.19.19.17.19 5 Kawak 7 Mak (Friday, June 14, 1224)
The Grand Ballcourt, Chichén Itzá


Hunac Ceel stood at the top of the stairs of the large building at the south end of the Grand Ballcourt. Its borders were lined with spectators, overflowing into the surrounding area. He had even caused temporary towers to be built to allow more people to see the proceedings. Dignitaries from other cities sat atop the side-walls, closest to the goal rings, which were intricately carved with intertwining serpents and painted in vivid colors. These men were flanked by servants, whose jobs were to keep them cool with parasols, fans and beverages; and (once the game started) to swat away any errant ball which threatened to displace even a single imported quetzal feather in their splendid vesture. At the other end of the social spectrum, dirty children dangled their legs over the edges of the tower platforms.

Expectant eyes rested on Hunac Ceel, waiting for him to start the festivities. He raised his arms over his head and called out to them. "Welcome, citizens of our kingdom and visitors from other lands! Welcome to Chichén Itzá!" His voice echoed off the walls of the ballcourt, easily heard even at the far end. It was met with enthusiastic applause from the crowd. "We meet here at this glorious ballcourt, as our ancestors watch from the peak of the temple of Kukulcán. Ball players, come forth!" The players came and stood before him, clad in their protective gear and elaborate ceremonial headdresses. The captains stepped forward and bowed low before Hunac Ceel.

"The ball game has always symbolized transition between life, death and a new life," he continued. "At this time of transition, the end of this b'ak'tun and the start of the next, we mark this occasion by starting the celebrations with another ball game. The stakes are of particular note today. The losing team, as always,... will be decapitated!" A roar of approval from the crowd. "Their blood will be food for the gods, appeasing them and bringing us good fortune and a bountiful harvest. They will pass into Xibalbá, and that road permits no return."

"But on this special occasion, we wish to ask the gods if they will deign to tell us what will come in this new era. Therefore, the losing team's captain will be spared the usual penalty," (a few sounds of disappointment) "and instead will be taken to the nearby Sacred Cenote. There, before you all, he will be cast in as an offering to the gods!" An even louder approving roar. "And if both he and we are very fortunate, that man will pass into Xibalbá alive, and return with a message for us. Let us begin the game!"

Hunac Ceel held the rubber ball aloft as the players replaced their headdresses with protective headgear and took their positions on the ballcourt. When all was ready, he tossed it into the court, then sat on the painted jaguar throne placed for him at the end of the court to watch. The game itself was pretty dangerous, even without the lethal penalty for the losers. The protective equipment was fairly minimal, mostly just headgear and leather padding on the hips, though some had wrapped cloth around their elbows and knees. The ball was heavy, too; getting struck in the face or gut by a fast-moving ball could do serious damage. Additionally, while the typical game featured between two to four players per team, this spectacle had six players each, making for even more jostling than usual.

The king looked to the bright red rings, positioned high on the walls. Very rarely had he seen a ball pass through one, maybe twice in his whole life. After all, they were mounted very high up on the wall, about five times the height of a man, had an inner diameter not much larger than that of the ball itself, and the players were not allowed to touch the ball with their hands or feet. Simply hitting the ring or the painted area around it was worth points, and usually the game was won on points alone. However, getting a ball through your team's ring was instant victory, not to mention a crowd-pleaser.

Hunac Ceel settled into his throne and watched the players fight for the ball, and by extension, their lives. This promised to be a good game. He looked among his aides and servants around him, and to his dismay he saw that Tutul Xiu was not among them. He wished to go look for his friend, but he could not leave during the game. Afterward he would take time to seek him out.

The spectators watch as the brutal sport plays out, some cheering, some booing, some wincing, some looking away, some beating drums or blowing whistles.
Last edited by AlternateTorg on Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby weatherwax » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:48 pm

Citali shifted on the stone bench, looking for a more comfortable position. Her giant belly pulled at her back, throwing off her balance.

"Wife, you are fidgeting again," her husband Yaotl said reprovingly. "You should have listened to the midwife and remained home."

"I would not let our unborn son miss the ball game," Citali admonished. "You want him to come out weak-willed?"

"He will be a warrior, like his father, and his father before him," her mother-in-law beside her said. "No need to attend a ball game to be sure of that!"

"Hush, now, both of you," her father-in-law said. "She shows strength in coming to the ball game. A proper showing for the daughter-in-law of a general. And imagine if the child was born during the event! What a blessing that would be!"

A chuckle rippled through the family. Citali smiled and turned her attention to the game.
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby Stan Cold » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:23 pm

"GAH!" Huracan exclaimed as the ball hit him square in the face. It added more blood to the dirt taste in his mouth. Huracan hipped the ball to a teammate near the goal, and landed a solid kick to the chest on the one who botched his interception. Its not like he'll be the one to die the death of a failure. As captain, he'd be sacrificed to the gods, and he'll be damned if the gods thought him a weak leader who never punished his players. "Get up, you dog, and don't get in the way next time! But that will be hard without a head!"
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby CCC » Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:18 am

Eric, son of Eric, sat quietly in the stands. He rested his head on his hands, and his hands on the handle of his huge double-headed axe, that a lesser man could not even lift. And on his head was a massive helmet, adorned with two huge horns.

He largely ignored the complaints of the people behind him, who could see nothing of the game but only his broad shoulders. He leaned over slightly to the person sitting on his right. "Tell me," he rumbled, "the losers get beheaded, but what do the winners get?"
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby AlternateTorg » Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:41 pm

Nohoch Keek'en, the teammate on the receiving end of Huracán's reproach, does not fall down. He's the muscle of the team, not especially bright or fast, but intimidatingly large and incredibly strong. He rubs the red mark on his chest from Huracán's kick with a sort of ponderous look on his face. Meanwhile, Chak K'iin bounces Huracán's pass up against the wall with his knee, then interlocks his hands to form a step. Chan Tuucha', the lightest and most agile member of the team, steps into them, and Chak K'iin hoists him up. Chan Tuucha' flies up into the air, near the feet of Citali and her family, just in time to elbow the ball towards the goal. It doesn't go through, but it does strike the rim, earning Huracán's team a point, to the delight of the crowd. Chan Tuucha' falls to the ground, but rolls and quickly comes back to his feet, apparently unharmed.

The person sitting next to Eric explains without taking his eyes off the game. "The winners are treated as heroes. They become the guests of honor at a great feast, and their victory is recorded on the Wall of Heroes." He indicates behind him. Eric turns to see a wall approximately five feet high. It is intricately carved, showing the victors of previous games, standing atop of the headless bodies of their opponents. Along the top is a series of square carvings portraying skulls. "Those are hollow," the man explains. "The actual skulls of the losers are inside. The ball itself also contains the skull of a previous loser."

---

FYI: Nohoch Keek'en means "large pig," Chak K'iin means "red sun" and Chan Tuucha' means "little monkey." Huracán, is the Mayan word from which we get the modern English term "hurricane." Citali is an Aztec word meaning "star." Eric is, of course, a terribly lost Viking, whose name means "eternal ruler" or possibly "honorable ruler."

EDIT: Small wording change to remove redundancy.
Last edited by AlternateTorg on Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby CCC » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:47 am

Eric's eyes light up at the mention of a 'great feast'. "Thank you, neighbour." he says to the helpful fellow in the next seat, then settles down to watch the game. Since he's unfamiliar with the rules, he's mainly trying to see if he can work out which the two teams are. Not that it matters all that much, but it's a way to pass the time until the feast.
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby Kajin » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:50 pm

Sitting to the left of Eric is a young boy by the name of Tohil, who has taken an interest in the unusual man and has been following him around for some time now. Right now his attention is otherwise wrapped up almost entirely in the game, his cheers at the scored point lost among those of the crowd
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby AlternateTorg » Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:00 pm

Huracán pants as he huddles with his teammates during time-out. His team has fallen to a deficit of five points. The game ends when the sun has set, and it has nearly reached the horizon already. While it is an honor to die for the kingdom, especially on such an auspicious occasion, living is preferable. Looking to his teammates, he can see that their thoughts run in a similar vein. They set their game plan with a few hurried whispers and separate.

The opposing team's captain, Kaacha'al Baak, stares Huracán down through the eye holes of his ceremonial headgear, which has been painted to resemble a grotesque skull. The effect is unsettling, as was intended. He'd been doing this a lot recently, probably to boast about his team's lead. Huracán could only hope that his plan would be able to use that against him. With a call from the arbiter the game resumes. As they had predicted, Kaacha'al Baak moves under the ring to wait to receive the ball. From deep down-court, his teammate gives the ball a mighty strike with his knee, casting it high in the air, arcing towards Kaacha'al Baak. With a loud cry, Huracán charges towards the other captain, who keeps his eyes locked with Huracán's.

That was his mistake. Being so focused on Huracán, Kaacha'al Baak is caught completely by surprise when Nohoch Keek'en runs over him like a boulder rolling downhill. The opposing captain collides with the wall and falls dazed to the ground. Chak Ki'in and Chan Tuucha' waste no time in taking advantage. As Chak Ki'in hips the ball towards him, Chan Tuucha' performs a vertical wall run and headbutts the bull towards the goal.

Seemingly in slow motion, the players watch as the ball sails through the ring.

The crowd rises to their feet with a deafening roar of approval. Hunac Ceel stares with amazement as Huracán and his teammates hoist Chan Tuucha' on their shoulders and raise their fists in victory. Kaacha'al Baak stands up unsteadily, but still leads his team with a dignified air to kneel before Hunac Ceel. The king opens a box held by a servant, takes out his ceremonial macuahuitl, and calls forth Eek' Maaskab, the commander of his personal guard. As the crowd falls silent, the king gives him the weapon and points to the losing team. "Take them to the Temple of the Warriors," he commands. "Leave the captain with me." "Ma'alob, nohoch halach winik," the commander replies gravely, and with a curt gesture he instructs them to follow him.

Hunac Ceel and the captain remain on their elevated vantage point as the other team members are lead to the Temple of the Warriors. Surrounding the temple are 1,000 columns, each one elaborately carved and painted to depict a warrior. Their eyes are made of white shells painted with black pupils, giving a rather startling effect. The team members are lead up the stairs to the top, where a priest stands next to a Chac Mool statue. The reclining figure holds a bowl over its abdomen.

The priest takes the first team member and causes him to lie down face up at the top of the stairs. He draws a wicked-looking obsidian blade and strikes it into the man's chest, causing a sharp noise as his victim's sternum is cracked. The priest works quickly with his knife, and soon draws the still-beating heart from his chest. He holds it aloft, the blood dripping down his arm, as the crowd cheers. He then deposits the heart in the Chac Mool's bowl and steps aside for the commander, who decapitates the body with a quick blow from the king's macuahuitl. The head tumbles down the steps, where it is picked up and tossed around by a few members of the crowd before a guard finally manages to get a hold of it. He puts it aside, to be stored in the Wall of Heroes later. One by one, each member of the losing team is expertly dispatched by the priest and commander, and a trail of their blood slowly runs down the steps.

With the rest of the team slain, Hunac Ceel now leads the crowd down a trail towards the Sacred Cenote, gateway to Xibalbá. His thoughts are in the past, however, back to the days before he was king, when he and Tutul Xiu were young and foolish, when his friend hatched the plot that would make Hunac Ceel king....



FYI: Kaacha'al Baak means "broken bone," and Eek' Maaskab means "dirty knife." A macuahuitl is a long wooden club with obsidian blades embedded in it, used similarly to a sword. The commander's reply to the king, "Ma'alob, nohoch halach winik," means "Yes, great leader." (The words halach winik literally translate as "true man," which was their term for their leader.)
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby CCC » Fri Jan 27, 2012 3:29 am

Eric quietly shuffles backwards through the crowd - it's easy enough to let people pass him - and takes a good grip on his axe. Anyone who tries to rip his heart out is going to have trouble.

Fortunately, no-one seems immediately inclined to try.
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby Stan Cold » Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:26 pm

Huracán rejoices with his teammates. He then leads them to watch in triumph as Kaacha'al Baak is sacrificed. He might just ask the king for the man's helmet as a trophy.
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby AlternateTorg » Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:14 pm

The king thinks back to his youth...

Hunac Ceel and Tutul Xiu stood near the edge of the Sacred Cenote, watching transfixed as sacrificial victims were tossed one by one into the murky water of the sinkhole. Tutul Xiu was 18 years old, tall, thin and gawky. Hunac Ceel was a year older, a little shorter but more athletic. The boys winced at the sound of the latest victim's bones breaking as he hit a submerged rock. There would be no message from the gods brought back by that man.

As if reading his thoughts, Tutul Xiu snorted derisively. "Message from the gods," he muttered, his eyes rolling. "Nonsense."

Another victim went in. This one managed to avoid any stones, but got her limbs tangled in a clump of underwater plants. The boys watched as the water churned, but her head never came above the surface. Before long, the cenote was still once more.

"I've seen this hundreds of times," Hunac Ceel commented. "There's only one safe place to hit the water, there." He pointed.

"Not so much 'safe' as 'somewhat less dangerous,'" replied Tutul Xiu. "Not that knowing where it is would do
them any good," he continued, indicating the victims. "They get shoved in backwards." A light seemed to break over his face. "But if you were to jump in on purpose..."

"Hey, wait! Why are you volunteering me to be sacrificed?"

"It's not a sacrifice if you
survive," he retorted. "Besides, I can't swim."

"But why would I want to jump in at all?"

"Because these people believe that a survivor brings a message from the gods! If you survive, you can command these fools to do whatever you want, and they'll do it because they'll think the gods told you to say it!"

Hunac Ceel gave Tutul Xiu a friendly punch on the arm. "I don't think so," he said, but his mind kept turning the idea over. He was a strong swimmer, he knew where to jump. And when he got out...

Without a word, Hunac Ceel suddenly raced forward and hurled himself into the cenote, eliciting a gasp from the onlookers. Tutul Xiu swallowed hard; talking about the idea was one thing, but seeing his friend plunge into the greenish surface of the water was quite another. He held his breath as the seconds passed, and just as he started to panic, he saw Hunac Ceel's head rise above the surface. The crowd tittered with excitement as a rope was thrown down to him and the drenched boy was hauled up. The murmurs died out as the aged king stepped up to the dripping young man.

"Do you bring a message from Xibalbá?" he queried.

There was a pause, and the silence of that moment roared in their ears. Then Hunac Ceel spoke nine words that would change everything.

"The gods said that I am to succeed you," he said.




Hunac is older and wiser now, and knows how fortunate he was to have lived. It was a terribly risky decision to have jumped, and his knowledge and swimming skill hadn't been nearly as much of a factor in his survival as was sheer dumb luck. He smiles at the rashness of his past self and dismisses the memory as he arrives at the Sacred Cenote.

He leads the losing team's captain to the platform which hangs over the water, then takes the ceremonial helmet from his head, much to Huracán's pleasure. Then he calls out in a loud voice, "Kaacha'al Baak, we commend your soul to the gods. May they smile upon you, and give you a message to bring back to us." He doesn't believe this for a second, of course, but he has to keep up appearances for the traditionalists. He pushes the man backwards into the cenote and watches as he splashes into the water.

Somehow, the man falls into the "somewhat less dangerous" area. Involuntarily, Hunac Ceel holds his breath as Tutul Xiu had for him so many years ago, and before long is amazed for the second time today when he sees the man's head surface in the fading light. A rope is lowered to him, and the captain is pulled up to the top. He steps before the drenched man, feeling very strange at being on the other side of the encounter. "Do you have any message for us from the gods?" he asks.

Silence. Only now did Hunac Ceel really look in the man's eyes and see them filled with terror. The captain opens his mouth, stutters and gasps, then steps to the king's ear and whispers nine words that would change everything.

Hunac Ceel's eyes widen. What would he say to the people? Their eyes watch him expectantly. They are waiting. He gives the helmet back to the captain, then leans in and whispers something back to him. The captain looks puzzled, but nods his head obediently.

"Kaacha'al Baak has brought me some very interesting news," the king calls out to the people. "Tomorrow, when we gather at the ballcourt for the celebration of the new b'ak'tun, I will tell you all about it. Tonight he will stay at my house as a guest of honor. For now, let us feast!"

There is cheering from the crowd, but it is somewhat subdued compared to their previous reactions. As they make their way back to the ballcourt where the feast has been laid out by the servants, they talk amongst themselves about the events at the cenote. Meanwhile, the king leads the captain to his palace, away from the others, and commends him to the care of his servants. Then, as soon as he can get away, he makes his way south towards the observatory. He must find Tutul Xiu.
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby CCC » Wed Feb 01, 2012 6:21 am

Eric watches with slight mystification. He bends down slightly to speak quietly to the boy who's been following him around. "Your gods live underwater?" he asks. "How do they breathe?"
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby weatherwax » Wed Feb 01, 2012 12:41 pm

"I'm just saying that it doesn't make sense," Citali mutters as she waddles next to her family on their way to the feast. "Why not give us the message the gods sent back for us?"

"Don't bother so much about it, wife," Yaotl says dismissively. "We will know the answer tomorrow."

"But --"

"Citali, your inquisitiveness is getting the better of you," her mother-in-law says. "It will be the dye-pot incident all over again!"

"I was just trying to make a brigher yellow," Citali says irritably.

"Daughter, eat heartily for your son, and don't worry about the gods," her father-in-law says.

Citali frowns, but keeps her mouth closed.
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby Kajin » Wed Feb 01, 2012 12:58 pm

"The Sacred Cenote is the portal to the gods. Very few in recorded history have gone through the Sacred Cenote and come back to us. If anyone does know the answer to that question, they certainly haven't told me," Tohil laughed. "Maybe they have breathing space on the other side?"
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Re: Jaguar: The End of the B'ak'tun

Postby Stan Cold » Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:08 pm

Huracán's looks grumpy as the man crawls out of the cenote, but he usually did so when something went against what was supposed to happen. He was a man of tradition, and those who jump into the cenote traditionally don't come out. Or maybe he just really wanted that helmet. He leaves for the feast hall.
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