The Night of the Initiation had come to the City of Tenochititlan. Atop the five tiered Temple of Coatlicue the Idol of the Goddess stood at the rear of the open platform. The outlines of torch lit city streets, sparkled far below the Priests and the Initiates who had gathered for the Sacred Ceremony.
The Idol of the Goddess Coatlicue stood eight feet tall. She was carved from a single block of stone, depicted with two enormous snakes, coiled out of her neck, with their closed mouths touching. She wore a necklace consisting of a human skull, hands and hearts. Her skirt was made of writhing serpents, and there were claws on her hands and feet.
Directly in front of the Idol, the blood splattered, waist high Stone of Sacrifice stood in preparation for whoever would die that night.
In front of the sacrificial stone, the stone sculpture of the Chac Mool was displayed as the figure a reclining man facing outward, away from the Idol, holding a bowl on his stomach.
Two dozen Maidens, including the Princess Anyanctla, Ladies Miltlana and Honatl, along with the other Handmaidens, stood in a semicircle outside the Chac Mool and sacrificial stone. They all stood perfectly still, facing the Idol, with their arms at their sides, wearing only short skirts and sandals made of snakeskin.
While drums beat out a staccato rhythm, the Maidens stood chanting the name, "Coatlicue! Coatlicue! Coatlicue…"
As they continued chanting, the High Priest walked with his arms folded, along the semicircle of Maidens, looking into each of their faces.
Four Lesser Priests also stood with their arms folded, between the Sacrificial Stone and the Chac Mool, watching the High Priest. All the Priests wore black, hooded robes, splattered with dried blood.
As the High Priest looked her over, each Maiden had a calm expression on her face. Once he'd moved on, their faces showed distress.
Once he completed observing all the Maidens' faces, the High Priest moved between the Chac Mool and Stone of Sacrifice. He turned toward the Idol, and called out in a loud, resonating voice.
"Hear us oh Coatlicue!"
The drumming and chanting ceased.
The High Priest cried out again.
"Great Earth Mother! Mother of the Moon and the Stars! Goddess of Battle!
"Tonight we present these new Initiates to you! Tonight we will sacrifice one of them to you, out of gratitude for all your blessings! It is a small token of gratitude indeed, to one as great as yourself; yet it is the deed which gives the greatest joy to your heart."
The High Priest turned away from the Idol, and faced the Maidens. Then he called out again.
"Commence with the Sacrifice!"
The drums resumed beating, while the Maidens resumed chanting.
The Lesser Priests stepped out from between the Chac Mool and Sacrificial Stone. Two stood on the right end of the line off Maidens. Two stood on the left. They and the Maidens all watched the High Priest, who held a sharp obsidian dagger, pointed toward the sky.
The High Priest lowered the dagger, pointing it toward the Maidens. He moved it back and forth horizontally, pointing at each one in line, as she chanted. Then he stopped moving.
The High Priest's dagger pointed straight at Lady Miltlana. She stiffened and trembled. Then she composed herself and walked forward.
The Lesser Priests stepped from the ends of the Maiden's line. They came over to Miltlana, taking her by the arms. She didn't hold back, as they brought her to the Sacrificial Stone, where the other two Lesser Priests waited.
Then all four Lesser Priests placed Lady Miltlana on her back, on top of the Stone, with the Idol to her left, and her fellow initiates to her right. Each Priest held down one of her arms or legs.
The High Priest now stood above Miltlana holding the dagger, which he raised high, then brought down quick. He slashed the King's Handmaid open between her breasts.
Princess Anyanctla, Lady Honatl, and the other Maidens chanted joyfully, as Miltlana screamed in agony and horror. Each one felt relieved, that she herself had not been chosen for the honor; so they all chanted joyfully now.
"Coatlicue! Coatlicue! Coatlicue!..."
The High Priest then reached through the wound between Miltlana's breasts, firmly gripped her pounding heart, and yanked it out of her chest.
Her cries abruptly stopped. The chanting continued.
Miltlana's heart now lay beating in the bowl on the Chac Mool's stomach, while she lay dead, atop the Stone of Sacrifice, with a deep bloody hole between her breasts.
The drumming and chanting continued.
Now the High Priest turned to face the Idol again. He once more called out in a loud, resonating voice.
"Hear us again oh Coatlicue!"
The drumming and chanting stopped.
"Tonight, all our hearts should be overflowing with joy at this celebration; but they can not! Our hearts are too heavy!
"Our beloved King Moctezuma has been seized by these treacherous men called Spaniards! Already they rule your people through his fettered voice!
"Aid us oh Coatlicue! Help us rescue our King and drive out these evil strangers! They are strong Great Mother! They have weapons of fire and thunder, hurling burning stones which cause great destruction! They have weapons of steel, and strange beasts called horses! No one has been able to withstand them, between the Great Water and our Glorious Sacred City of Tenochititlan!"
Now the High Priest looked toward the Maidens.
"To overcome this unheard of evil, we must make unheard of sacrifices! We must sacrifice more of these Initiates to you! Perhaps all of them"
Lady Honatl gasped. The other Maidens began to tremble and moan.
The High Priest spoke to them. "It will be your part in the fighting"
Now the Maidens composed themselves stoically.
Lady Honatl, who stood on Princess Anyanctla's left, began sobbing; offending the other Maidens. Anyanctla gave her a sharp jab in the ribs, and she quieted down.
Now two Lesser Priests came over to the Stone of Sacrifice. They picked up the body of the dead Miltlana by her arms and legs, and carried her through the center of the line of Maidens, between the Anyanctla and Honatl; who got a good look inside the bloody hole, where her good friend's heart had been.
The two Lesser Priests came to the edge of the platform, and rolled Miltlana down the steps, across all five tiers, to the ground below.
"Wait!" The High Priest called out again. "Coatlicue wants the sacrifices to be voluntary. Are any of you Maidens willing to come forth voluntarily, to expiate this evil, and restore our beloved King Moctezuma?"
The Maidens all looked at each other.
Then Princess Anyanctla took a tentative step forward. The High Priest pointed his dagger at her.
The two Lesser Priests stepped away from the top of the steps, and approached the stoic Princess.
Then the sound of a loud hissing inhale of breath was heard. Everyone stopped and looked at the Idol. There was the sound of a loud hissing exhale. This was followed by regular hissing inhales and exhales, coming from the Idol.
The sound of rattling began, followed by multiple hissings and rattlings.
The two enormous snake heads on top of the Idol of Coatlicue began to move. Then its skirt of serpents came to life.
The Idol stepped forward, causing everything on the platform, at the apex of the stepped pyramid, to shake.
All the Priests backed away from the Idol, while the Maidens remained standing where they were.
The Idol moved around the Sacrificial Stone, to the line of stationary Maidens. One of the living serpents on the living Idol's skirt bit the Maiden at the end of the line, to Anyanctla's right. The Maiden fell dead, with an ecstatic look on her face.
The High Priest again called out, "There is no greater honor, than to be sacrificed by Coatlicue herself"
The Maidens resumed chanting. "Coatlicue! Coatlicue! Coatlicue…"
The Idol's necklace now consisted of a genuine human skull, hands and beating hearts.
The Idol moved between the Chac Mool, and the line of Maidens. One of its enormous snake heads descended to the bowl on the Chac Mool's stomach, and swallowed the heart of Miltlana.
The Idol's other head looked over all the chanting Maidens. Then it stopped, and stared directly at the Anyanctla.
Princess Anyanctla walked up within striking distance of the Idol, where she stood trembling.
She said, "I am ready to do what is necessary, to aid our King Moctezuma."
The Idol lowered one of its enormous heads, which opened its mouth and engulfed the stoic Princess' head and shoulders, and began to devour her, while the other Maidens chanted.
Anyanctla squirmed wildly. Her muffled screams came from inside the Idol, which was swallowing her alive.
Then the Princess went limp, and the Idol swallowed her completely.
The High Priest said, "We need more!"
He pointed toward Lady Honatl.
Lady Honatl turned and ran toward the steps.
Archers armed with bows and arrows stood in the dark, at the edge of the platform. One of them shot an arrow into the back of the fleeing Lady Honatl; who screamed and fell dead. She laid stretched out dead on top of the steps, with the arrow sticking out of her back.
The rest of the Maidens were offended, at the sight of one of their own, who had died in the most disgraceful way, with an arrow in her back.
Now the sound of a very loud rattling came from the Idol.
The High Priest shouted, "This has offended Coatlicue! She may refuse to help us!"
The Idol hissed loudly. Then it vomited out the Princess Anyanctla.
Anyanctla was on her hands and knees, gagging for breath.
Then the Idol backed away from her, and from all the Maidens.
The High Priest called out again. "Coatlicue wants none of you!"
The Idol returned to its usual place, resumed its sculptured posture, and became stone again.
"Coatlicue will help us no more!"
Anyanctla, who had caught her breath, was now in tears.
A Maiden named Lady Haltlec called out, "My Lord! Sacrifice us all! Don't let any of us live to see the sunrise!"
"It will do no good!" The High Priest announced, "This act of cowardice has defiled the entire Sacrifice! I cannot continue! Depart and do what you can!"