Inglesia de Santa Domingo, San Carlos de la Casa, Chiapas
Father Valorous poked his head from underneath the safety of the bell tower roof and scanned the now muddied front courtyard.
“She can’t hear you. She’s gone with that Zapatista rebel,” his chief novice said in his high shrill boy’s voice.
“What do you mean gone? Gone where? And how do you know it was a Zapatista rebel? Did she wear a tee shirt announcing it?”
“I saw what I saw,” insisted the novice. “That other lady, who was dropped off by her guy twenty minutes ago, changed into a rebel carrying something.”
“Were you spying on them, my son?”
“I was patrolling the belfry. Couldn’t sleep. Too quiet around here. I took a walk and saw everything.”
Father Valorous refrained from patting the boy on the head, realizing that this novice grew in wisdom, if not in stature or age.
“Tell me plainly, what did you hear?”
“They’re going to Palenque to join a rebel army, alley themselves to Camazotz and drive us from the land.”
“All that from far away? You must’ve sharp ears. When did they leave?”
The novice spread his arms out in front of him, took three steps and jumped. Father Valorous eyed the pantomime with slit eyes, and then stared down at the ground.
“Don’t move. I’ll be right back.”
With a slight hop, Father Valorous bounded up and forward into the air. The swoosh of his entry into flight tugged at the novice’s robe as he watched the father soar high above the bell tower of the church and then angle toward the ground. Landing softly with his sandals slapping against the saturated dirt, the father folded his wings and peered at the faint outlines of four sandaled feet.
With his nose almost touching the ground, Father Valorous ran his hand over the dirt and felt slight vibrations emitting from underground. Following this energy scent, Father strode further along the courtyard until it emptied onto the pave road leading toward Ocosingo. He toed the last miniscule sandal print as it suddenly disappear. Pressing his face flat against the dirt, his nose quivered as the smell of cocoa penetrated his nostrils.
“Come here,” Father Valorous signaled within his mind to his novice. In a few seconds was the whir of wings, and the novice dropped down on the ground.
“What is your wish?”
“To where Sister Bagdona went?”
“We need transportation. Is that truck that Tairino used still behind the church?”
“Last time I checked it was.”
“Good. Gather the brethren. We need to overtake Sister and Elena and make sure they make it to Palenque safely.”
“Father, you discovered all that by smelling the ground?”
“All it takes is practice. Quickly now, we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”
As the rain continued drizzling, the novice flew back to the bell tower and awoke the others until all stood assembled in the courtyard. Night had come with a penetrating chill and many of the younger vampires shivered.
Father Valorous joined his flock and pointed toward the front courtyard. In the yard stood the truck that they’d ridden from the airport.
“We’ve got a six hour trip before us. If you want to feed along the way, I suggest you do it alone and not in groups. We don’t want to attract any more attention than necessary. Everyone got their war gear on?”
The group nodded exposing their newly sharpened fangs, razor shaped and tapered talons, and a crucifix. Father Valorous nodded. Unfolding a huge map, he turned it about so that his flock could see a reddened trail that led from their bell tower church to the ruins of Palenque.
“As you can see on this map, this is the route we’re taking so we can overtake Sister Bagdona.”
Here, his chief novice coughed. A fleck of red foam hit the wooden floor in front of him.
“A small snack,” he said avoiding the father’s eye.
Father Valorous continued speaking, his voice hardening and dropping one octave as if emphasizing his words and giving orders instead of mere suggestions.
“You see here that the first major city we approach is Ocosingo. It was here that the paramilitary soldiers blocked the rebel group from taking back their supposed land. We’ll follow the road past Ocosingo and take it to Temo, which is the next major stop. We hope that Sister has enough sense to get off the paved road and strike into the jungle to lose her pursuers, but only time will tell. The next major city is the outskirts of Palenque itself on route 1994. There is where the rebel group has set up a human chain to lay claim to the land and keep the tourists from entering the ruins. From what I’ve heard from the counts, these same rebels have taken up positions at the other Mayan ruins with the same intentions of reclaiming their land – by force if necessary.”
“And we’re going to stop them?” the novice asked, his voice rising with uncertainty.
“Please remember you’re a vampire. We can do anything we like!” Father Valorous shouted, suddenly out of patience with his flock and his novice.
“We are few, mostly woman and younger novices. Can we actually stop them?”
“It depends if they’re helped by Camazotz,” a new fresher voice said.
Father Valorous turned and watched as two men flew into the bell tower. Counts Erros and Ambros landed on next to the father.
“Why do you hesitate?” Erros asked. “Those rebels are spoiling for a fight. We will oblige them.” Erros said.
Ambros folded his wings and nodded toward the novice.
“You’re afraid of the living?”
“Not afraid, just wary of what they can do. I’ve no plans to die a second time and not come back to life.”
“Have no fear. We can take out these human rebels without too much injury to us. Their gods might be a different story; however. We’ve elevated the stakes and taken out an important piece of their campaign. Camaztoz may back down willingly if we play our cards right. The rest of our kind will meet us at Palenque. Come, we fly now.”
Father Valorous cleared his throat. Both counts glanced at him, their eyes watchful and guarded.
“We’re taking the truck. Sister Bagdona has left the church yard with Subcomandanta Susanna. We need to get them both back before they reach Palenque before us.”
Erros flicked off an imaginary insect from his left arm.
“Sister Bagdona off with a rebel leader? That makes it a bit easier to follow them. All right Father, you take the truck with your flock and look for your errant sister. Ambros and I will fly the night sky and patrol the borders of the ruins to spot the enemy below and see where we’ll fight. It’s important that we fight on the ruins that mean the most to these peon rebels and their so-called gods.”
“Father, go ahead,” Ambros urged. “Take your people and depart. This place is no longer safe you. See?”
Father Valorous peered down at the front courtyard and froze. Soldiers milled around his truck, poking their automatic rifles into the rear doors of the opened truck.
“I don’t think you’ll be riding into town,” Ambros added, “However, those soldiers left their own vehicle out back behind the building. You can drive it instead. No one will stop you since it’s painted in green and grey. The paramilitary are not liked around here. It’s more of a Zapatista town from what I’ve heard from our newest disciple, Jesus.
“Jesus? What a name to give a child,” the novice said. “He’s condemned before he begins to live and breathe.”
“He would make a good addition to the flock. We could use more members at that age between child and adulthood.” Father Valorous added under his breath.
Erros turned his dead eyes toward the father.
“Did you say something?”
“He would make a good addition to our flock. We need more middlings in our group to take the edge off of age.”
Ambros whistled, sounding more like a saw cutting green wood. Father Valorous pulled his hood further forward on his head and signaled to the chief novice. The others fell in behind the novice and proceeded down the stone steps that led down into the front courtyard of the church.
“There’s a secret door that takes you to the rear of the church,” Ambros offered.
Father Valorous grimaced and he nodded toward the group. Ambros took the gesture as a peace offering and stopped the women and children on the stairs. Stepping up toward the bell tower, he stopped midway and rapped his knuckles against the stone wall. A faint crack appeared on the stone. Count Ambros knocked the flat of his hand against the stone, and this time the stone slid inward. The count lowered his head and walked into the hidden passageway.
The novice followed immediately after him, followed in turn by the rest of the vampires. The last to leave were Count Erros and Father Valorous.
“You’re not staying behind to greet and eat them?” Father Valorous asked.
“No, the show of force from us will come soon, but not to these simpletons. They won’t climb up the stairs to find us. They even fear the dark. We’ll leave them a trail to follow us should they wish, but here in the church our power is lessened. Only the bell tower has saved us and our faith in our dual fathers from above.”