Red Jaguar Rises Again

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Chapter Seven

They move between the big rocks to get to the opening, being very careful not to touch any of the sharp edges. He notices that the rocks get smaller and smaller as they near the rounded rocks that fit close together.

Cody squeezes between the tight rocks. He finds himself in a dark tunnel.

“It’s as if we inside the pyramid again,” says Becca who’s followed close behind him.

“Shushhhh,” urges Cody. He turns to her and whispers, “Listen. Sounds like men are yelling at each other up ahead.”

They move along slowly over the rough ground making their way through the wide space. The voices grow louder.

“We’re coming to the end of this thingl,” whispers Cody. “Something big is going on. The voices are coming from below us.”

They creep slowly and find they’re at the end of something. Cody thinks, We’re on top of another building. . .on the edge of a stone platform. He whispers, “Let’s lie down and see what’s going on.”

Becca takes off her straw hat and lays down. She puts her hands over the edge of stone and peeks over. Cody does the same and his eyes grow wide.

Below them is a small, blue-green lake. Lighted torches are stuck into the rocks in the jagged rock walls. Notches are cut along one of the rock walls. They look like chairs.

Twelve men, who look exactly like the carvings on the temple wall, are dancing around tall jars that have been placed on one side of the lake. They shout and make loud animal-like noises.

The jaguar skins over their shoulders, feathered rings on their bare arms and legs, and the bells that jingle on their ankles are weird enough, but even more so are the strange things they have on their heads.

Their headdresses are made of feathers that stick up in all directions and wave about as they move in a circle around the jars.

“Oh,” breathes Becca. “Mayan priests!. They’re performing some kind of ceremony! I’m so excited that I’m not cold anymore.”

The men dance for a long time. And then a gong sounds. They stop and take the seats carved out in the rock wall behind them. All but one of the priests finds a chair and sits down.

One priest waits until the rest are seated and then he stands tall in front of them. Instead of a jaguar skin, he wears a cloak of green and blue feathers. He takes off his feathered headdress and puts in on the ground. Then he goes to one of the jars and and takes from it a big head of a jaguar. He fits it onto his head.

As he does, Cody and Becca see his face. They gasp! The guy is George. They slide behind the edge and whisper to each other, “I can’t believe it,” says Becca. “Neither can I,” says Cody.

“Let’s look again,” he says

“Yah,” says Becca, “and see what he’s up to.”

An old man who looks angry yells at George. “Tonatuih (Ton-Tu-Ah),” he shouts from his chair.

Another man gets up and points at George and yells, “Bacca” (Back-Ah).

George, who has his back to Becca and Cody, extends his right arm, one that has many gold bracelets, and points it to each priest in turn. When he’s finished, they start stomping their feet. The bells on their legs make a terrible racket.

Then he raises both arms and moves his body so he faces the four directions of the compass. He says something in a low voice they can’t hear.

Becca slides back and so does Cody. “He’s doing this so the gods will be happy,” she whispers. “The ancient Mayans believed that the world has four corners. At each corner a god holds up their part of the sky. George, or Tonatuih, as they’re calling him, is asking something of the Lords of the Sun, The Moon, The Stars and The Night.”

Two priests take out red flutes. The sound is haunting and echoes through the vast space.

A priest with long black hair under his headdress jumps up. He goes to Tonatuih. His nose is big as that of an eagle. His forehead has a big tilt and he has one of those ski-noses.

The priest goes to the jars.

Tonatuih stares at the jars and as he goes to them, Cody says, “He moves just like a jaguar!”

The jars, lined in a row, are many bright colors, all the same width and height.

Becca says, “They’re filled to look and feel alike. Now I’ll bet he has to pick the one that’s empty.”

“What’s inside? Deadly coral snakes. Poison he’ll have to drink? Jewels?” Cody is worried. “But, he already took that jaguar headdress out of one. So that just leaves. . . eleven others for him to choose between.”

Tonatuih moves around the jars, looking hard at each one. He stops at a bronze-colored one, reaches for it with two hands, turns it around in his hands several times, calls out strange and harsh words.

“I think he’s going to break it.” says Becca who knows a lot about the ancient customs.

“Why?”

“If there’s nothing in it, it will show that he’s telling the truth.”

The men in the chairs stop moving their feet. They lean over and say something to the priest next to them and then are silent.

The flutes stop playing. The mood is dark.

Tonatuih holds the huge jar above his head.

Just as he’s about to smash it to the ground, a tall man wearing a lot of purple and yellow feathers as a cloak and headdress walks out of the dark. He goes to George with his hands out.

A slight smile comes over Tonatuih face. Slowly he puts the jar back down.

The unknown man then fishes under his cloak and pulls out a jeweled sack hanging from his waist.

Tonatuih holds out his hands. From the man’s sack, he pulls out a book. The cover has strange marks and beautiful designs. Although Cody had never seen one before, he knows that this is a cod ice, a priceless treasure, a hinged-book filled with beautiful pictures.

“It tells the history of the Maya and foretells the future,” whispers Becca.

Tonatuih holds the book out for all to see and then walks with the unknown man into a tunnel and disappears. The priests followed.

“Let’s follow them,” Cody says.

“When I laid down, I looked over there . . .see over to that side, I think there are some stairs,” says Becca.

Cody is quick on his feet. She’s right. The steps are steep and long and they start down.

“Ahhh,” said Becca with fright. “I’m sure a snake’s following us.”

Cody reaches for his race car. It slides out of his hand. “Oh, where did it go?” he yells. The voice says, “Stop. Be quiet. Don’t be in a hurry. You’ll see the car if you look around on the ground.”

He does see it and his heart felt good again when he has his hand on it in his pocket.

They are go into another tunnel, the one they saw Tonatuih and the others enter..

Cody feels good. The torch-lit tunnel is long and it leads them outside to the base of a big pyramid. They see the priests at the top on a big platform.

They climb to the top, being careful to watch their feet so they won’t fall off. The priests watch them come.

When they’re almost to the top, the priests are at the edge of the platform waiting for them. In a strange language, which suddenly they can understand, the priests chant, “Balam and Teotl (Tee-O-Tell) are here. It is good. Now we begin.”

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