A/N This was spawned ages ago from a pet peeve, a fight, one too many cheap
adventure novels, and a ludicrous daydream of doing something grand.
Anything big is imagination, minor incidents might be based on twisted
memories. Sadly many of the characters here are names chosen by former
friends years back, some even based on what they wanted to be
someday.Thanks to my cousin--a beta years and years before I'd ever heard
of the word, should she ever decide to condescend to speak to me again!
This is to everyone who heard a child tell a ridiculous story and refrained
from making fun of them, it's more of a virtue than many people think.
"Amazing! This pattern is wonderfully preserved. Wonder why I never
heard about it before, others have been here before me. . . perhaps I can
write an article. . . not enough information. . . It seems to mean
something, why else would it be so often repeated?" She spoke to herself,
but a worker heard her.
"No se, doctora Emrysel, no se."
"Hola," a light haired woman poked her head around the outer temple's
wall, barely able to perceive the figure of her friend and a worker in the
"Cicile, what are you doing here? Come on, we'll go outside and
talk." The two friends headed outside the Mayan temple of 'The Giant
Jaguar'. It stood in the center of the city. The site had been studied
for decades, and would probably be studied for decades more. Morgan
Emrysel, an archaeologist and leader of the expedition, carried a chart
with the enigmatic dot pattern sketched on it. Cicile (Lee) Moore
followed. She was taking a vacation from her post doc.. They stepped over
the threshold and into the bright Mexican sunlight. Morgan waved her hand
at the ruined city and said "Look around. This was like New York City at
"They certainly built things to last." She looked impressed. "What
is that?" Cicile finished, gesturing to the chart.
"An annoying little problem to make life more interesting. It's a
pattern of dots of different sizes, repeated in different parts of the
temple. The dots are connected in a certain way and, although this is just
conjecture, it seems to resemble a feathered crown."
"Are they shown in other Mayan cities or just this one?"
"Don't know," Morgan sat on a folding chair and motioned for Cicile
to take another one. Cicile was looking at a pile of rubble questioningly.
"What is that?"
"A G.O.K. pile. God only knows. An archaeologist coined the term
years ago and it's quite an accurate description." The rubble was in part
fallen stones and crumbled artifacts, but the rest had been put there by
'archaeologists' of questionable authenticity over a century ago.
"Oh, Morgan, I nearly forgot to say, love the hair."
"Well, it kept falling in my face." She answered defensively.
Morgan fingered the messy ponytail. She yanked out the elastic and her
long hair, brown and covered with dust, tumbled around her face and down
her back. Suddenly a boy ran up to them.
"Doctora, doctora, senor Rondeau se llama por telefono." He added
with a sly smile at Cicile "el novio suyo." Kit Rondeau was an architect
with an interest in Mayan architecture and so sponsored Morgan's
expedition. That made him her boss, even though he was only two years
older than her. Kit was also Cicile's fiancée. Morgan grabbed the
cellular phone the boy handed her. While she spoke Morgan stretched her
limbs, sore from sleeping in a bedroll, and applied bug repellent to her
arms, already crawling with bites. She assured him all was well and hung
"He was just checking the progress, or lack thereof. Oh Lee, another
interesting thing about that dot pattern, it's newer than the rest of the
temple. The pattern was done around the time the Spanish started arriving,
but at that time the temple was at least 650 hundred years old and their
civilization was on the decline, partly because of the Spanish. Did you
know that in the 16th century there were thirty Mayan languages? Most of
them are still spoken today. Some were similar, like Spanish and
Portuguese, others quite different, like French and English. The Mayans
had broken into different groups with varying beliefs. All of them were
still Mayan though! They survived in pockets until the 1600's, unlike
other Mesoamerican cultures. The Aztec civilization was destroyed by 1521
at the hands of Hernando Cortez. Off the record, I'd bet the surviving
Mayans added that pattern with some connection to the arrival of the
Cicile let out a somewhat exasperated sigh. The time period of the
demise of the Maya had been a pet peeve of Morgan's since high school. She
had set the history department of her school in a four year flurry over
whether there was a definite date. "What about it?"
"Remember the argument I had with the ninth grade civilization
"Yes. She thought the Mesoamerican cultures were uncivilized because
of human sacrifice. You disagreed."
"That's an understatement. Was the Spanish slaughtering them for the
sake of gold any better than the Mayans sacrificing, sometimes willing
victims, for belief in religion? I personally don't believe in human
sacrifice, but they did. Blood was a way of supporting their gods. They
seemed to feel that blood . . . it's hard to explain, um . . . blood to
them was kind of like what the Force was to the people in Star Wars. It
kept things in balance. Their gods kept their world going, but in return
the people had to keep the gods going by human sacrifice."
Cicile shook her head and put up her feet. Morgan was on a roll.
"The Spanish couldn't have been too shocked anyway, their inquisition was
around that time. Talk about torture. At least death came quickly for the
Mayan's victims. Also, many of the Spanish treated the natives incredibly
cruelly. One of the first white governors was a Franciscan friar, Father
Diego de Landa. The man was a butcher. Anyone who was caught worshiping
an idol was tortured. They had boiling water poured over their skin, were
whipped and had their joints stretched. He burned at least thirty codices
(Mesoamerican books), believing them to be the work of the devil. He
tortured five thousand of the Maya, nearly two hundred of them died. Then
he was recalled back to Spain, to stand trial. He was later sent back to
Mexico, but for his deeds, as a bishop!"
She continued on, her voice full of disgust. "As for being
primitive, the Mayan science and math was hardly that. Their calendars
weren't surpassed in accuracy until this century, they determined the years
actual length to within one five thousandth of it's real value, knew the
exact length of the Venusian year, calculated other astronomical cycles to
the span of about sixty four million years, and knew of Uranus and Neptune
which weren't discovered by westerners until the 1800's. They also knew
the earth was round and their math had the concept of zero in it. They
knew everything moves in cycles and predicted solar eclipses. I think
that's pretty good for a 'primitive' people. Some legends claim that there
was a god Kulkulkan who taught the Mayans what they knew. I'd say that's
one hell of a teacher."
"Interesting facts, but I doubt connect-the-dots has much connection
with that." Cicile abruptly swatted a mosquito.
"You're probably right." She chewed on her lip and didn't seem
"So why don't you check your other theory and go to another Mayan
city and see if there is anything like the pattern there, added around the
time of the Spanish arrival?"
"An idea, but I can't leave here for at least another few days. I'd
need permission from the Mexican government to go to Palenque." Morgan
switched on her old laptop computer and absently typed in a few notes. It
started to beep, she threatened it, swore at it, then turned it off. "I
hate technology. So what's new at home?"
"Robert Castille won the election last Tuesday, he's president for
four years. Do you remember why election day was changed in 2001 to the
last Tuesday in July?" Robert Castille was someone the two had known in
high school, to their deep regret.
"Nope. After the Clinton thing I started to totally ignore politics.
Don't get too upset 'bout him becoming president, knowing Rob he'll
probably pull something and get impeached and thrown out! In reality
Isabella is president through him, she's an ambitious little toad. Oops!
My apologies to the toads of the world. I'm glad they married each other
though, that way only two people are miserable instead of four. I don't
understand why people vote for him." Morgan spoke with a decided
"They probably like having someone important being stupider than
"They're not stupid, they just don't act particularly bright."
Morgan paused for a second. "So now the U.S is a kakistocracy, instead of
"Kaki. . . what? English please."
"Kakistocracy, a government by the worst people in society."
"I suppose that could be true. . . but there could be worse, not
likely, but possibly."
"You think Kit will give me enough money to research the Mayan
civilization for four extra years? I'd hate to have to return to the U.S.
with Robert president."
"Kit would probably rather join us."
"He's paying for the expedition, he can come here whenever he wants.
Somehow I doubt you would complain, Lee, if he decided to visit."
"Lee, don't worry about your hair," Morgan said, exasperated. They
were about to enter the temple and all Cicile did was complain about her
hair getting caught on branches.
"Well what if Kit decides to visit all of a sudden?"
"I doubt it."
Morgan felt something bump her leg and cried out in alarm. "Are you
all right?" Cicile asked.
"Yeah, it's just my coqui, I forgot it was in my pocket." The stone
frog was a Puerto Rican good luck charm.
"You still have it!"
"Of course. It brings me luck, I've had it in my pocket for every
test and excavation I've been on since you gave it to me. It seems so long
ago, but in the span of history it is really no time at all." Morgan ended
in the thoughtful, dreamy, out-of-it tone that was characteristic of her.
"True," Cicile said, also thoughtfully. "It does seem like a long
time ago. That year we were friends with Desiree Madison and Rob, even
Isabella. Now we dread the thought of Rob becoming president and Desiree
the new French ambassador."
"We're here." The two walked up the many steps, Morgan leading,
Cicile following. Inside the temple all was quiet. The air smelled
ancient, but not unpleasant. Morgan stepped in first, shining a high
powered flashlight ahead of her. Even so, it hardly pierced the gloom, but
the was enough light to search for a few minutes and then see it. Morgan
was fixed to the spot. Cicile carefully stepped over a pile of rubble and
saw what Morgan was staring at with rapt attention. It was that pattern.
Suddenly the light went out. With a brief profanity Morgan stomped out,
she had just charged the batteries, yet now they were dead. It was getting
dark outside, so the two left and went back to the makeshift camp.
"Look at that over there, isn't that the constellation Perseus, in
the north." Morgan was getting annoyed. She had always found astronomy
fascinating, and was quite good at it. She knew she was right, why didn't
Cicile admit it?
"You said it wasn't!"
"I thought you were talking about Hercules, in the east. Hello?
Morgan? What's wrong?" Morgan had frozen, her eyes to the northeastern
Very slowly, as though she had been struck, Morgan murmured "Look
sideways at the stars between Hercules and Perseus, part of Draco and Ursa
minor. Do they look familiar to you?"
"Wow, that explains the pattern, but what does it mean?"
"No idea, but in nine days they should be in perfect alignment with
the design from the temples. That day will be the Spring equinox; there is
no way that can be a coincidence. I wonder... you think that if we were to
follow this constellation until it reaches the horizon that we might find
Cicile stood, eyes shining, mind blown away by a possibility that had
come to her thoughts. "Perhaps we might find a place where the Mayans fled
to when the Spanish came."
Her excitement was contagious. "That might make sense," the
daydreamer side of Morgan overrode the archaeologist. "The Mayans would
have left a type of message for their gods to know where to find them.
Only problem, we would have to go out into the water." Her archaeological
reflexes insisted that this was highly improbable, but, she figured what
the hey. . .a vacation would be nice anyway.
"Well, Kit has a boat. Perhaps I could ask him to come with his boat
so we can follow this lead."
"Right. You just want an excuse to see him."
"Well, it would be nice to see him, but honestly I am curious about
this." They returned to their shared tent to phone Kit. Cicile grabbed at
Morgan's cellular phone, but Morgan maneuvered away and placed the call.
The phone rang a long time before a grouchy voice answered.
"Hello, Kit Rondeau speaking."
With a slight gleam in her eye Morgan questioned in a disguised
voice, "Is your refrigerator running?" If looks could kill, at that moment
Cicile would have become Morgan's assassin.
"Um, yeah, I think so," Kit sounded incredibly confused, no one used
that line any more...
"Then you better go catch it!" After finishing the world's oldest
prank call, Morgan gave Cicile the phone so Kit wouldn't hear her laughter.
"Hello?" Kit sounded mildly annoyed, but had no idea who the caller
was. Cicile glared at Morgan and answered. She apologized for Morgan's
actions, but Kit found the prank amusing, if somewhat cheesy. Cicile then
preceded to tell him of their predicament. "I'd love to come down but I'm
stuck with the kid."
"My younger brother. He's a little older than you two."
"Is he cute?"
"You're mine!" Kit didn't see why she was asking, but Morgan did-
Cicile was trying to fix her up. She picked up the nearest blunt object,
it was a skull of a Mayan sacrificial victim, so she put it down and
grabbed the dead flashlight. She aimed carefully. . .
"I was just curious." . . .and fired. Morgan's aim wasn't the best
so the flashlight hit Cicile in the stomach instead of the head. Cicile
didn't miss a beat. She threw back the flashlight and continued talking.
"So, I'll see you in a few days. Bye."
The next week passed without incident. Morgan mentioned their plans
to no one, only saying that she would have to leave the excavation for an
undetermined amount of time. She also appointed the person who would be in
control while she was away. His name was Cedric Roush, the team
epigrapher. He was a paternal character in his sixties who often advised
Morgan. She was sure the expedition would be in good hands with him.
Perhaps, she thought with a grimace, better than in her own. The rest of
their group consisted of another archaeologist, an epigrapher, an engineer,
and two photographers. They also had a handful of Guatemalan workers on
Cicile slowly amassed supplies for the trip. She also noticed a
different side of her friend. Non-assertive Morgan Emrysel could be quite
an adept leader, when given the chance. The other academics and workers
seemed to respect her, mostly because she respected them in return.
Then Kit arrived. Morgan was unaware of his arrival until something
hit her in the head. She whirled around, angry not so much as getting hit
as the fact that she was hit with an ancient artifact, a chunk of broken
rock from the temple. The perpetrator was Kit's good looking younger
brother, Alex, who was laughing, until Morgan advanced on him. She glared
at him over the top of her sunglasses, light eyes narrowed to angry slits.
Alex was saved from Morgan's wrath only by Kit's appearance. Morgan turned
to him, smiled and in an eager tone suggested "Kit, why don't I illustrate
what evidence shows the Mayans did to their sacrificial victims? Cut out
their heart, skin them alive. . . Your brother would make a wonderful
"You know I would have no problem with that, but my parents would
object. So I'm afraid not." Kit glared at his younger brother, daring him
to misbehave. Alex took the challenge. He went to whack Kit one out of
spite but Cicile had moved her arm from around Kit to catch his brother in
a head lock. While the two of the were fighting a book fell out of Alex's
back pack. It was an old leather bound copy of Macbeth.
He escaped from Cicile's head lock and turned to Morgan. "A guy you
knew in high school told me to give that to you."
"I'm not allowed to say." He flashed a mysterious smile. He and Kit
then left, still arguing, for their hotel in Merida.
"Brown hair and eyes. So Alex is the dark and mysterious type, hmm."
Cicile mused after Kit and his brother were long gone.
"That's his brother. Alex is the loud, obnoxious type, and don't you
dare try anything," Morgan hissed in reply. She swallowed two painkillers
to dull the throbbing in her head, that Alex kid had a much better throwing
arm than her. She thought about the whole sibling altercation thing and
decided once again she was glad to be an only child.
Coast off Merida: 2010
"So, do you have any idea where we're heading?" Kit wanted to know
if he should chart a course.
"It's probably over the Bermuda Triangle. But we have to follow the
stars to be sure." Morgan was enthusiastic about that estimate.
"What! We're not going there!" Kit's one major fault was that he
could be over superstitious.
For the first time Alex was on the same side as Cicile and Morgan; he
wanted to go on this adventure too. The three decided to shame Kit into
continuing the trip. "Why don't you want to go? Afraid the Bermuda
Bogeyman will get you?" Cicile recognized the taunting younger sibling
tone in Alex's voice. She had heard it often enough, but this was the
first time she was glad of it.
"I'm not really afraid, but some pretty strange things have happened
there. You can't deny that."
"Many of the planes and ships got lost because their equipment was
rendered useless by electric storms. We've no such things to fear. The
stars are our guide. Plus the boats were often old and overloaded with
cargo." Morgan spoke in her best lecturing voice. Typical, Alex thought,
the scientist always finds a good reason to ruin fun.
"Well what about the other mysterious stuff? You know . .
.fireballs, peculiar clouds, time warps, intact ships with the crews gone.
. ." Kit was not to be beaten.
"Bro, have you been reading The Star again? That's trash, besides a
time warp would be pretty cool," Alex muttered.
"To quote Einstein- The most beautiful thing we can experience is the
mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. Come on, in the
name of science, or at least of adventure." Morgan finished with a
mischievous smirk. After shaming, teasing, and mock threats, Kit went
That day they set their general course toward the constellation.
Unfortunately they would not know until the next night how accurate their
course was. The trip was pleasant enough.
Cicile and Kit were talking a blue streak; they were hardly aware of
the sudden change in weather. The barometer had dropped like the ball in
Times Square on New Year's Eve. Malevolent clouds hid the horizon. The
sky had developed a sickly yellow tinge and thunder reverberated in the
distance like the beat of war drums. Then the rain started. It pounded a
nameless tune on the deck and cabin roof. Blazes of lightening split the
sky in half. Morgan and Alex watched nature's display with silent awe.
Turning to Morgan, Alex suddenly cracked the silence, as well as a smile,
and said what both had been thinking. "Good thing Lee's keeping Kit's mind
off the storm. Being in the Bermuda Triangle he would probably freak about
this storm. I think it's kinda cool though."
Morgan agreed. Nature had more dignity and power than man could ever
possess. Both went in the cabin to get out of the rain. She picked up the
leather bound copy of Macbeth and began to read it. It seemed in good
condition, except for the fact that certain letters and spaces had a mark
above them. The inside cover read To the most cultured of the gang.
Suddenly Morgan leapt up and grabbed a pen and some paper. Alex,
intrigued, went over and watched what she was doing. Writing out the
marked letters and spaces created a terse, unique message.
Help. I am my wife's prisoner. She wants to rule the world. I no
longer joke. You and C must help. Do not trust Desiree, she helps
"Well, Alex, how do I know this isn't some joke of yours?"
"Trust me." Morgan snorted at that. Alex ran his fingers through
his dark hair nervously. "It isn't a joke. I was a friend of his in
college. He knew my brother was sponsoring your expedition, so he sent me
this to get to you. I figured it was a book of yours that he had stolen."
Alex was as shocked as Morgan at the message. The two suddenly heard a
creak and turned around. It was Kit and Cicile.
Morgan told them about the message. Her quick narrative was
interrupted by barks of surprise and disbelief. The discussion about it
went on through the night.
"It's probably a joke, even if it is rather sophisticated for Rob's
taste." Cicile spoke her verdict decidedly.
"Well, his wife may truly want to rule the world, but she would never
try to, right?" Kit's eyes were wide.
"Robert wouldn't ask Morgan or me for help if it were the end of the
world." Cicile added.
"Hey, if Isabella rules the world, it will be the end of the world."
Morgan tried to jest, but her voice was too soft and subdued.
"I don't think this is a joke. She doesn't seem to be the type that
that should be taken with a grain of salt." Alex sounded serious. With a
lighter note he added "Remember that Animainiacs cartoon? Pinky and the
Brain? Robert is like Pinky and Isabella like the Brain. They're Pinky
and the Brain, yes Pinky and the Brain, one is a genius the other's insane.
To prove their mousy worth, they'll overthrow the Earth, they're Pinky. .
." He hummed the theme song.
Morgan cleared her throat. "I wouldn't be overly surprised if it
isn't a joke. I mean, it probably is, but imagine if it weren't. Isabella
has megalomaniacal tendencies, even though she has a complete lack of
diplomacy. She's that kind of person; and she's determined, if she wants
something, she'll get it."
Atlantic, near 30N, 70W: 2010
Morgan couldn't sleep, so she read the Macbeth that had caused her
insomnia while sunrise sent wolves' tails in the sky to precede it. An
hour or two later the sun began his arduous climb across the sky. Suddenly
Morgan's eyes caught something odd, a dark blot toward the north on the
pale yellow and pink sky. Alex, who had taken the wheel from Kit hours
earlier, noticed it too. Kit was up at seven by her watch, followed by
Cicile at a quarter after eight. They discussed this new development, as
well as the night before's, at breakfast of stale bread and browning
bananas. It was decided that the silhouette had to be an island, although
Alex claimed it was a ship eating monster, or a stranded U.F.O. Morgan
tried and tried to keep herself from false hopes. Her excitement converted
itself into nervous energy. She couldn't keep still; first she tapped her
pen on the table until she flicked the pen out of her hand and nearly
creamed Kit. He calmly put the pen in his shirt pocket. Then the finger
tapping started. Badly chipped silver-purple nails drummed the table in an
"Do you think it could be Bermuda?" Cicile asked, she had expected
Bermuda to be bigger.
"Couldn't be. Bermuda is larger and farther northeast," Kit held an
atlas in front of him. His brother pointed to where Bermuda is in relation
to where they were. It was quite a distance. Human eyes couldn't see that
far even on the clearest of days. Morgan had been drumming her fingers
throughout this interlude. From the slight twitch in Cicile's face it was
possible to see the constant sound was wearing on her. She slammed her fist
down a few inches from Morgan's fingers. Morgan jumped and nearly fell out
of her chair, but it jolted her out of her antsyness. She took a deep
breath and attempted to sound calm and scientific. . .
"I say we check out this island. It is probably what we're looking
for." Morgan got to what she felt was the point. That was why they were
in the middle of nowhere, to try and find survivors of the Mayan
civilization. Or at least to find some evidence that people with a similar
culture had once lived there. ". . . Besides, it would be so amazing!" she
added with less than academic argument.
"If what we're looking for exists. What do we do if it's just a
volcanic island nobody ever lived on?" Alex brought up the most probable
theory. Unlike, Cicile thought, his usual character. Morgan had started to
pout. For a moment she'd felt so optimistic, like she was on the edge of a
new world, but the feeling was fading more by the moment.
"Go home," Kit thought the answer obvious. "and leave Dr. Emrysel to
figure what else this dot pattern/ constellation could mean." Morgan
looked obviously displeased at Kit's tone of voice.
"I'd rather try and figure out what the note from Rob means," she
replied tartly. "Besides, it has to exist."
"Mitte sectari, Rosa quo locorom sera moretur." Alex mumbled.
"What did you say?"
"But I thought you said. . ." Morgan looked perplexed.
"I DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING!" Alex was obviously ticked. Morgan let the
subject drop, though she was still confused.
"When will we reach the island?" Cicile attempted to get the
conversation back on course. Expectation hung in the air like a heavy
cloud. Minutes passed before Kit figured out the answer and replied.
"This afternoon, sunset at latest."
Atlantic, 30N, 70W: 2010
"Land ho!" Alex shouted melodramatically. A small, but imposing
island loomed ahead of the boat. The sun was low in the sky when they
found a safe spot to anchor the boat. Morgan nominated Alex to stay
aboard. He reluctantly agreed, after making them promise to hog the
Kit, Cicile, and Morgan walked on the island. The climate was
similar to the original habitat of the Mayans, thanks to the Gulf Stream.
The three walked in silence for about half an hour before signs of
civilization appeared. A walled city appeared out of the surrounding
forest, majestically crowning it. The city had brightly colored buildings
inside the blindingly white walls. A large building with a domed top
loomed in the corner of the city. Could it be an observatory? Morgan
pondered silently. There wasn't evidence to show that arches or domes had
ever been used by the Mayans. . . Behind the city there seemed to be
They looked around them in stunned silence. Minutes later the silence
broke. They started laughing. Morgan had tears in her eyes as she ran up
close to look at the walls before rejoining Kit and Cicile. She was
practically jumping up and down. Then she stepped down oddly on one ankle
and hurt it. She gingerly stood up, straight and still.
Suddenly Kit noticed a group of people walking in their general
direction. Before the three could plan their course of action they were
spotted. Cicile said running away wouldn't be a good idea. Both Kit and
Morgan agreed, so the three stood still. The group of people walked toward
them hurriedly, but cautiously, muttering to themselves in surprise about
these strangers. Their language sounded awfully familiar. It seemed to be
a Spanish dialect.
Even though to her it seemed corny Cicile rapidly said in Spanish "We
come in peace." Despite the seriousness of their situation Morgan could
hardly suppress a laugh. The peculiar look on Kit's face betrayed his
similar instinct. Morgan forgot her ankle and started bouncing again, still
curious, but frightened too.
Kit whispered "Is she going to say 'Take me to you leader'?"
Motivated by Cicile's words one of the people eventually came
forward. He looked similar to the others, having dark eyes and skin with
raven black hair. Walking up to Kit he spoke rapidly. Morgan noted that
this man didn't even reach Kit's shoulder. At a loss Kit shoved Morgan and
Cicile forward. The man repeated his request that they follow him. Having
no real choice, they did as he asked.
The city was so crowded few people took notice of the tall, oddly
clothed strangers being bustled toward the other side of the city. In the
outdoor market all was near chaos. People bargaining and trading to get
the best deals on food, clothes, tobacco, pottery, medicines, animal skins,
and exotic feathers. The clothes designs were hard to catch moving quickly
as the people were, but Cicile noticed that women wore square necked robes
and, along with children, walked barefoot.
Morgan tried to absorb all she saw. The pots were often cylindrical
and decorated with frescoes. Bowls were varying and some had and abstract,
Aztec-like, design. The medicine stalls were especially interesting.
There were snake skins and meat, ololiuhqui (morning glory) seeds, rabbit
fern, snakeroots, Lippia dulcis (Aztec Sweet Herb) and various other
things. The rabbit fern and ololiuhqui seeds Morgan identified as being
used by the Mayans as a treatment for rheumatism and the Lippia dulcis was
used for coughs, colds, bronchitis, colic, even asthma. She wondered what
Kit and Cicile thought of it all.
Kit winced at the wicked looking obsidian knives. Morgan glanced at
him, annoyed by his expression, "I believe those are used for surgery,
"I hope so." He looked really edgy. After walking through the
market Morgan noticed a whitewashed ball court. "Gee, maybe we can catch a
game," Kit joked. "It's the only sport Morgan would know anything about."
She gave him a wry look, admittedly she knew little, and cared less, about
sports. They continued walking toward a complex of brightly colored stone
They finally reached their destination, a large building. They were
escorted to a small room. The people that had brought Kit, Cicile, and
Morgan to the room took leave. The three foreigners studied the room. One
wall was covered by a stone disk. In the center there was a large sun face
and around it were many strange, carved, figures and glyphs. It resembled
an Aztec Calendar Stone, Morgan looked at it oddly. The Mayans were not
known to have such carvings. The other walls had shelves with codices on
them. The covered subjects were varied, although astronomy was prominent.
"What is this place?" Cicile whispered.
"It's a library." Morgan had only dreamt of such a place, because
there were only parts of four Mayan codices known to modern archaeology.
The Christians had destroyed most of them after the civilization crumbled.
The four known surviving Mayan codices were the Codex Dresdensis, Codex
Madud, Codex Paris, and Codex Grolier. Her fascination with them is what
had led her to Tikal in the first place. She drew in breaths of the air,
testing its smell. It reminded her of the British Museum, but damper.
Morgan had moved from studying the air to studying the codicies when their
Physically he resembled the others they had met, but he was dressed
richly and carried an air of royalty. He looked at them thoughtfully, or
as Cicile felt, looked through them as if trying to read their souls.
There was an awkward silence. Then finally he began to talk. The man
watched them warily as he spoke. Kit, who spoke English and French with
barely a few Spanish phrases, understood almost nothing. Morgan and Cicile
got the gist of his speech because they knew some Spanish. Morgan assured
him that they did not want riches or war, just knowledge. An honorable
pursuit, he said approvingly. They learned that his name was Zotecoatl,
the ruler (or Ahmen = he who knows; often used in a ruler's title) of the
Maytecs. And the island was known as Tenozique. The Maytec civilization
was a hybrid civilization made of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations.
Zotecoatl opened a codex and told the three how the Maytecs began.
The Maytecs' Story
Both the Maya and Aztecs were not the most peaceful of empires.
Their rulers fought others and each other. Their religion included human
sacrifice. But neither deserved the destruction of their civilizations by
the Strangers. The Strangers came in things that looked like floating
pyramids. These people were given gifts and welcomed, but destroyed the
Aztec culture and cities anyway. A few refugees managed to preserve some
belongings and flee into the southern jungles.
While the Mayans lasted longer due to their already dwindling
population, some of their people saw ill omens in these Strangers. They
built their boats larger and hoarded food and crop seeds, in case it was
necessary to leave. That proved wise. After witnessing some of the
cruelties preformed by the Strangers they felt the time had come to move.
A religious man convinced artisans to paint a map of where they were headed
in the temples (ancient even then) for their gods.
The Maya and Aztecs ran into each other in the jungles. Though
normally enemies, these people fought a mutual enemy and so helped each
other. Using reed boats all escaped together to an island. They named it
Over the years the cultures were merged and changed. There were so
few people and no enemies to conquer, so human sacrifice was eventually
written out of the hybrid religion. As the Aztecs felt betrayed by
Quetzalcoatl, whom they thought the Strangers' leader was in disguise, he
was left out of the new religion. Blood sacrifices in any form were rare
and belief was felt to nourish their new gods, not blood. The ball game
still represented the movements of the sun and stars, but afterwards no one
was sacrificed, as in the original rules.
Everything in the Maytec culture: religion, art, games, clothes,
even science, was a mixture of Mayan, Aztec, and new ideas. Most of the
changes that had taken place were brought about by necessity. Many things
hadn't changed in the nine Maytec centuries (each one lasting fifty-two
years), but a few things had. Women could rule and own property, unlike in
the parent cultures, and the majority of people could read and write,
instead of just the rich and privileged. The island's main city, Itzamnan,
was named after Itzamna, the benevolent god of the thirteen heavens. This
was the city they were in. The ball court they had noticed was dedicated
to the honor of Itzamna.
After he had finished, Zotecoatl asked the three about where they
came from. Kit, using Cicile as an interpreter, promised that there was
much to tell, but requested that he could go get his brother. Zotecoatl
agreed and said that they would be his guests for as long as they stayed.
He began to teach Kit their dialect of Spanish, and Kit tried to teach him
some English. They looked quite happy and busy, so Morgan offered to go
get Alex. Before she left, Morgan told Zotecoatl that the 'floating
pyramids' were the large boats of the conquistadors.
Morgan did as she said. She left by the north road, so as not to
travel through as much of the crowded city. Reaching the boat she found
Alex engrossed in Macbeth. "I thought you were illiterate!" She called in
"I'm not stupid, I just don't quote everything all the time."
"C. . ." Morgan caught herself about to quote someone. "Yeah, I
guess I do quote others a lot." She realized that was a habit, but it
seemed that no one ever listened to her words, so she used the words of
others to get her ideas across. As Michel de Montaigne had said, I quote
others only the better to express myself.
"Hey, it's not bad to act smart." Alex was a little embarrassed, he
hadn't meant to say it in quite that manner. "So what'd I miss?"
"I'll tell you while we walk. Come on," Morgan brought him up to
date, huffing slightly because she spoke while walking upward. The walk
was also more strenuous because each carried two bags full of clothes and
the like, since the four were staying in the city overnight. She finished
just before they were able to see the city. Alex saw it and did a double
take. Morgan led him through the city. They went along the streets
virtually unnoticed, until they reached the palace. The guards wouldn't
let them enter without asking Zotecoatl first. After everything was
settled the guards were apologetic.
Kit introduced Alex to Zotecoatl like he was introducing one old
friend to another. Dinner was served to them in the palace garden. The
meal consisted of turkey and maize tortillas with sides of beans, peanuts,
and squash. The chocolate drink was made from cacao, sweetened with honey,
and vanilla was added for flavor. They enjoyed the simple yet unusual,
food. Morgan wondered if the ancient Maya or Aztecs had eaten like that.
Over dinner the four told Zotecoatl about what had happened in the
world since the Maytecs had begun life on Tenozique. He was impressed, but
not as greatly as Kit had expected. He thought that sending people to the
moon, and in 2009, to Mars would seem incredible. He knew much about
technology, and yet it never ceased to amaze him. Somehow Morgan had
expected that the Maytec leader wouldn't really care whether men had been
to Mars or not. It's not that they were apathetic, it was just their
culture was so drastically different. Alex felt that they would learn much
about their cultural differences in the next few days.
They were shown to their rooms. Kit and Alex shared one, Morgan and
Cicile another. Morgan studied the room with professional curiosity,
Cicile more as someone who was going to sleep there. It was a square room
with paintings and carvings adorning the walls. The floor was covered with
a reed mat, like a wall to wall carpet. Two smaller, thicker, mats were on
the floor as beds. They were surprisingly comfortable. Cicile put out the
oil lamp and fell asleep. Morgan's thoughts went on, processing all the
new information for hours, before she too fell asleep.
Alex and Kit talked late into the night about many things. "So, when
are you and Lee planing on getting married?" Alex hadn't heard much about
"We're not sure yet, probably next Spring."
"Oh. Is Morgan going to be the Maid of Honor?"
"Not a good idea. She'd fit in better at a funeral."
Kit tried to glower impressively. And failed. He punctuated his frustration
by rolling his eyes theatrically.
"So, do you think Isabella really could take over the world, if she tried?"
"What?!?" Kit realized that was what Alex had been thinking about
the whole time. "I honestly don't know, but Morgan seemed to think so.
She seems to be a good judge of character."
"I think she will readily believe the worst, so might make Isabella
out to be of a darker nature than she really is. She lacks confidence in
"Maybe true. But she is a historian, and history often shows the
darker side of life." Kit was surprised to find himself defending Morgan's
attitude. He found her pessimistic in the extreme.
"You have a point, maybe she's just a realist." Alex snuffed the
flame, he was still unconvinced. He was awake long after his brother
started to snore. For some reason he couldn't sleep, just why he wasn't
sure. Elbowing his brother, to try and quiet the snores, Alex drifted into
The next morning the four woke up bright and early, to their disgust.
They went with Zotecoatl to visit a noble in a smaller city, Kulktotec.
This city was named after Kulkulkan, their god of wind and master of life.
He was patron of all arts.
Though the walk wasn't far it took awhile, due to the stately pace of
the procession. Zotecoatl was borne to the small city upon a litter. The
four visitors walked behind. All were escorted by guards. This action
seemed to be more a formality than a necessity. Sure, all places have
their share of bad people, but Tenozique seemed to have a generally kinder
society. As Morgan dryly pointed out to Kit, "The fact that these people
have lived so many years on this tiny island without destroying each other
attests to their nature." Alex silently agreed.
It was evident that this noble was a good friend of Zotecoatl's.
They laughed and joked together. Zotecoatl then introduced the four to his
friend, Xiuhtec. Morgan guessed he was named after Xiuhtecuhtli. At first
Xiuhtec was more suspicious of them than anyone the four had yet met. He
seemed loath to let strangers into his circle. It took all of Zotecoatl's
eloquence to soften him.
Morgan's assumption about his name was correct. He was named after
the god of fire. He proudly claimed it was because his of volatile
temperament--which had been apparent since he was very young. "Hmm, I
would have thought he was just a pyro." Alex seemed determined to get a
reaction from someone. Morgan cast him a disparaging glance and turned
Like the Southwestern Native American tribes, the Maytec retained a
large oral tradition, and Xiuhtec was very knowledgeable in this area. He
told them legends and stories of both parent cultures, as well as ones from
the new culture. He was a consummate story teller and Morgan listened,
utterly enthralled. Alex and Cicile tried to translate for Kit, but
eventually became too engrossed in the stories to talk, so they decided to
tell him later.
"Was it just me, or is that Mayan tale about the 'Hero Twins' kind of
confusing?" Alex asked Morgan and Cicile. The three had been trying to
tell Kit the stories that Xiuhtec had told earlier. It wasn't easy.
"It's not just you. I still have trouble getting it straight from
memory," Morgan admitted, rather sheepishly. "Somewhere I have a copy of
that story. Let's just have Kit read it sometime. Okay?"
"Can you imagine how hard it must be, I mean, to not just remember
the stories, but also to tell them well? I know I couldn't do it." Cicile
spoke with admiration. Alex smirked and looked about to say something,
then decided against it.
"I'm already forgetting the new tales he told, it's not fair! Like
having a dream you really want to remember, but it keeps right on slipping
through your fingers. . ." Morgan was chewing her lip again, perplexed at
having such a bad memory.
"You know, we really should leave soon." Kit finally spoke up.
"Alex has a new job in DC in a week or two, and we should let Morgan get
back to her site." Neither Alex nor Morgan looked particularly
enthusiastic about their future prospects.
Grudgingly Morgan agreed. "I know Cedric is a wonderful leader, but
I guess it really isn't fair to impose on him. It is my job." She still
didn't sound convinced.
Cicile was much more enthusiastic. "This place is really great, I
know it's like Morgan's dream come true and all, but I can't wait to get
back to civilization. Especially air conditioning, showers, and another
change of clothes." Morgan and Alex has suspiciously similar looks on their
faces as they stifled their replies.
They decided to leave the next day, if it could be done without seeming
Zotecoatl invited them to come back at some time if they wished, but
seemed a little relieved to see the last of his unexpected guests. As the
four toted their belonging back to the boat Morgan turned and looked back
at the city. It was a place she could have spent ages exploring. The
markets, the temples, it was one place she even might have wanted to catch
a game. They went back to the boat and started back toward Merida. Morgan
went to the stern and watched the island until it disappeared beyond the
Gulf of Mexico: 2010
"You know we probably shouldn't say anything about where we've been
or what we've seen." Alex sounded quiet, but defensive, like he expected
everyone to argue the point. Instead there was perfect silence. The waves
could be heard breaking against the sides of the boat. The silence wasn't
angry or insolent, but more like the intenseness of thought.
"We've learned so much, come on, we can't just forget what happened!"
Cicile suddenly burst out. Before anyone could refute the point she
continued. "Look what they'd stand to gain. Sure the people seem
comfortable enough, but there's plenty the modern world could do for
"And to them." Morgan's whisper was tinted with ice.
"Luddite." Cicile snarled derisively. "You just want your own
little isolated culture to study."
"Do not." She leaped forward, like the accused at a trial preparing
to defend herself. "I just, well, it doesn't seem . . . " Though
intensely angry, Morgan had lost her voice.
"Cicile, calm down." Kit began to wordlessly coo to his fiancée.
Morgan sighed as her friends were reduced to the linguistic capacity of
A few minutes later, Cicile was quiet, sitting contentedly in Kit's lap. "I
think I know what Morgan means." Kit turned to her, eyebrows raised.
Morgan nodded, still quietly angry about Cicile's jab. "Every time
'civilization' gets it's hands on a 'backward' culture, the people get
hurt. That's what Morgan studies, the atrocities of both sides. Sure,
we're used to modern comforts, but do you think they want them?" Morgan
gave Kit a fleeting, grateful smile.
"Remember how polite but totally disinterested Zotecoatl was when we
told him about ourselves, what we do? I think they liked us, but don't
care about anything we could bring them." Alex, barely hiding a smirk,
added "Besides, we all know Morgan. Strange-- certainly, pessimist-- that
too, boring-- sometimes, but rarely a hypocrite."
"Thanks. I think." Morgan was not too proud to have him as an ally.
"Okay. Okay. You win." Cicile decided it was best to just give in.
"What is wrong with you?" Cicile stood over Morgan's crouching
"I. . .don't think I know what you mean." She continued to sketch
the pictograms she was studying, shifting her position slightly to conserve
the fading light.
"You're perfectly civil to everyone, but cold, withdrawn. This isn't
high school. . . Look, ever since our little vacation you've been acting
"There is nothing wrong with me." Morgan gently brushed some dirt
and eraser shreds off her sketch pad while she quietly refuted the
"Then why are you acting like that, like this?" Her tone grew loud
enough that a couple team members turned their heads. She lowered her
"That is so not true!" Cicile paused, then hissed "Feeling a little
antisocial? Perhaps you need some psychiatric help, like your little
"You. . . , why are you acting like this? At least I tried to be
there. The question seems to be more, what's wrong with you?" Morgan's
pretense at calm had failed, as had her balance.
Morgan stood ruefully and wiped her hands on her jeans before picking
up the papers she had dropped. Cicile watched there actions with detached
interest. She then summoned all the hauteur she could and walked off
angrily without a backward glance. That was their last discussion. When
Morgan returned to her tent she found that half of the tent she had shared
with Cicile had seen cleared out. It was too dark and she was too
distracted to work efficiently, so she decided to retire for the day.
Morgan lit a scented candle, quietly listened to Vivaldi and tried to
relax. She absently stared at the small flame, its brightness and
perfection, and allowed her mind to wander aimlessly. It seized upon the
imperfectly remembered tales that Xiuhtec had told them. Perhaps it was
the inspiration of the flame that hearkened those events back in vivid
detail. The incident would always stay in her mind, but would not be
largely disclosed, unless one of the other members of the excursion made it
necessary. It just didn't seem fair to allow all of the 'civilized' world
to descend upon a perfectly content people. That situation seemed more
often than not to end in genocide and disaster. While modern comforts are
all very fine and well, they didn't seem to feel at all deprived in
Glancing around the tent Morgan noticed entropy had already started
to do its job, the tent was nearly back to its original cluttered state.
Books on the archaeology and paleontology of nations worldwide- from Oldavi
Gorge to the Valley of the Kings to Stonehenge- sat piled on the floor.
Nearby were a half dozen crime and mystery novels. To one side a green
sleeping bag lay on an air mattress, bug spray and bottles of lotion were
lined up next to it. Movable lights had been set up for optimum lighting,
but created unnerving skeletal shadows on the sides of the tent.
The final drips of blue wax were used up and the little flame died,
leaving behind only a lingering perfume scent with a slightly acrid smoke
edge, and the harsh glare of the artificial lights.
Before Morgan fell asleep she promised herself she would try to find
out why Cicile had gotten so angry. It was true she was distracted, but
that Cicile blew way out of proportion. Still, she should try to patch
things up. Too many friends had been lost in the past and too few existed
in the present.
The rest of the digging season went by in a blur. Morgan's mind was
rarely on what she was doing. She did and said everything she was supposed
to, double checked that she would be allowed to return the following
season, secured the site for the rainy season, hurried to finish
documenting the less permanent objects in the site, and finished other
protocol. All of this was pure habit. It was like in school when she
couldn't remember a room number or locker combination, her feet took her to
where she belonged and her fingers knew the combination. Morgan's body was
on autopilot while her mind flew toward the following months and all she
had to do.
Morgan stumbled off the plane stiff, tired, and grouchy. So maybe
that wasn't so unusual, but she had a better reason than usual. Plane rides
were often hard on her, and the multiple transferring flights were a pain,
she felt she'd spent the entire day running for flights. It was partially
true. She decided to buy cleats for airport sprints. Her old sneakers
didn't have enough grip on the slick institutional tiles floors of large
airports. With a sudden effort Morgan dashed through the airport to get to
customs before the rest of the crowd, and somewhat succeeded. She had
nothing to declare. It's not like Guatemala was a shopping haven, and nor
did it produce any foods she'd want to take out of the country. Walking by
the masses waiting for their luggage she breathed a prayer of thanks. She'd
had most of her belongings mailed, and just lugged a bulky carry-on with
her beloved laptop, notes and some of her mystery novels.
Walking out of the airport, surveying the hectic mess of taxis,
buses, and cars she noticed her cousin jumping up and down and waving her
arms in front of her illegally parked car. Morgan quickly went over before
they got a ticket.