The Toltec Arts

Archive for May, 2011

Chapter 1 – End (1st Draft)

I asked the Ahtzic Uinac for leave to speak with Tukumux. It was impermissible to address or speak to a lord’s guards. To do so was tantamount to attempting to ingratiate oneself to them and divide their loyalty from their lord. Should danger strike, a guard’s personal feelings must not prevent him from protecting his master first. To speak to a servant was merely considered an impropriety. The rule for guards was extended to servants when the person was in new circumstances as I was. He told me that Tukumux was not truly his servant and that he was only accompanying them because he was going to introduce him to friends of his who were weavers and traders.

Chahel ran off into the trees after I indicated to her that she should hunt. Tukumux seemed sad to see her go. I had to explain to him that these were her hunting lands. I also told him that I wondered why he was going to see the weavers.

“I did a bad thing, they told me,” he said.

This took me aback because there was not a mean-spirited bone in him. I asked him what he did.

“I did something and I made your sister cry,” he told me.

“To Maricua? Why?”

“No, not Maricua. Marilya. I ruined her hair for the wedding feast.”

Pain shot through my chest. I had not been invited to the celebration. Marilya was the eldest daughter of the eastern wife. She was as beautiful outside as she was horrid on the inside. She was a viper disguised as a woman.

A time before, Maricua had been called upon by the prince of the tribal kingdom, which lived to the east of us. Maricua, with a stick, almost beat the poor man to death. This act was completely outside of her character. Our father was mystified until he learned that the man she wanted was the Cabicacmotz. He arranged for her to marry his brother-in-law. Things were uncertain for a time, but the young man accepted Marilya’s hand instead and everyone was pleased. The prince was, even now, the friend of both Maricua and the Cabicacmotz. I felt sorry for him. A daily beating from Maricua was a kinder fate.

I could easily imagine why Tukumux was in the middle of things. Tukumux might have been a child of innocence, yet he was a genius when it came to spatial puzzles or problems. He could look at a braided hairstyle and understand its intricacies, at a glance. Because of this, his services were in demand by the women of the city. One woman would wear the exclusive hairdo that a personal servant of hers devised. Then other women would become envious and hire Tukumux to replicate it for them. He made enough jade and gold to provide for himself and his parents and keep them all in comfort.

In general, the braiders of hair were our confessors. They provided that spiritual comfort as they helped people keep their hair tidy and presentable. It was an esteemed and well-regarded profession. Its practitioners were trusted for their silence. Indeed, they swore oaths of secrecy before they were allowed to perform their duties.

Tukumux was not a proper confessor, no child of innocence could be. To tarnish the purity or naiveté of these children was seen as a serious transgression. The women were allowed to let him braid their hair, but they could not burden him with their moral dilemmas or divulge their sins to him.

I asked him what he had done to ruin Marilya’s wedding feast as I silently prayed that he be blessed for all of his days.

“I thought she would be happy. She was marrying the eastern prince and his hair is new. You know how the women love the new hair,” he said between sobs.

It was true. The eastern tribe’s prince had an unusual hairstyle when compared to those of our men and women. He had bangs above his eyebrows and his hair did not even reach his shoulder. Instead, it was cut in a rounded shape. Our tribe wore their hair long and braided. The farm workers would shear the hair above their ears to the nape of their necks, but they were another matter.

“I gave her front hair like his,” Tukumux said.

I laughed with delight. I knew I should not, but Marilya had never spoken one kind word to me. Like her mother and the rest of my father’s wives, she would escort my other half-brothers and sisters away when I was around. They learned to avoid and hate me for no reason. Until Hac and Cham, I had no friends of my own age.

“The Ahtzic Uinac says I should have another job.”

“Maybe. I think I need to go back and talk to him again.”

When I returned to the story-master’s side, he asked me if I agreed that Tukumux would do well at weaving. I told him that it was likely since he was gifted at understanding plaits in hair.

“Yes, I think so too. His role is too uncertain with the women. What will he do if they tire of him or a better braider comes along? He takes care of his parents. He should learn a new trade that he can turn to if things go badly for him.”

“Do you think it will?”

“Who can know? The women will probably avoid him until Marilya leaves to go to the east with her husband. Afterwards, they will probably shower him with gifts,” he said with a knowing grin. “She is a difficult woman to like, Zaki.”

Without preamble, he began speaking about our ancestors. “Legend tells us that the first humans were four men: True Jaguar (Iquibalam), Jaguar Night (Balam Aqab), Jaguar of the Tribe (Balam Quitze), and Black Tailless One (Mahohkutihax). These men were almost as gods upon the earth, so great was their knowledge and vision. They would see and they would know. They could see the planets with their eyes. When they spoke to their makers, their speech was clear. They understood. Be aware that the legends also tell us that there was more than one creator involved in the making of man. When they saw how perfect the vision of man was, they discussed it amongst themselves and decided that man’s vision should not be so acute. It had to be diminished. To accomplish this, they divided man in three. When he was body, spirit and dreamer, his sight was hindered. The spirit received the greater part of vision, the body another part and the dreamer received the rest, which was the least of all.”

“The four men went out into the world remembering how wonderful their sight had been. They knew something had been done to them, but they knew not what. They tried everything in their power to regain their sight.”

“Since the jaguar was the most dangerous predator on earth, they deduced that its sight must be the greatest among the animals. They attempted to transform themselves into jaguars in order to benefit from its greater sight.”

“Understand that the life of man had not yet been made finite. Later the powers would correct this, but these men had incredible amounts of time to experiment with to learn to see again. They discovered four ways to increase their sight. Never was it the same, but they discovered the secret to becoming jaguars. They learned to become jaguars by forming and utilizing their double. Each man became a jaguar double through a different method than the others. There are four ways to reach it.”

The Ahtzic Uinac looked around, stopping his story. He told me that we would stop for a time to allow the men to rest and that he would continue his tale later.

For a while, we had been hearing the sound of water. Now it was very loud and close. We entered into a small green clearing with a cataract. Chahel was waiting for us there, daintily picking at a rabbit she had run down. The pool underneath the fall was clean and bluish. It was a welcome sight because of the long walk in the heat. After they had set the palanquin down, all of the attendants and I went to the water’s edge to drink. Tukumux carried a gourd and dipped it into the pool. After it was filled, he took it to the Ahtzic Uinac, who stayed seated on his cushions.

As soon as everyone had drank enough water, half of the men jumped in. Tukumux and I were the last ones in, preferring to enter it slowly. All of us swam around and relaxed in silence, avoiding each other’s eyes. I do not know if the Ahtzic Uinac’s retainers would have spoken among themselves if we had not been there, but I suspected they would not have. They seemed comfortable with the silence. Tukumux was not. Several times, I had to stop him from speaking to the men. A while later, the men left the pool to replace the guards around the story-master and the rest jumped in.

Once we were on our way, the Ahtzic Uinac resumed his tale. “Each of the four men is the grandfather of a lineage. The line consists of men who attain the jaguar double through the same means he used.”

Abruptly, he changed the topic. “Have you learned the hidden meaning to the name the Chuchmox call themselves?” he asked.

The name Chuchmox had two meanings. One was the feeble-minded women and the other was the women of the left. To the outside world, they were considered stupid women, but they were nothing of the sort. The Chuchmox were gazers who watched and protected our territory. Their true name meant women of the left. They had shifted their sense of self to the left side of their bodies. They were warriors, sentries.

I told him that I knew about them.

“Very well. The first of these lineages is that of Iquibalam. We tell outsiders that his name is True Jaguar, but his real name is Dream Jaguar, Ichiq Balam. He reached his knowledge through dreaming.”

“Next, we have Balam Aqab, Jaguar Night. To us, he is Balam Q’abar, Drunken Jaguar. He attained knowledge through intoxication. The intoxication can be from any substance except the mushroom because of the next lineage.”

“Then there is Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar of the Tribe. He is Balam Aqoz, Mushroom Jaguar. The mushroom, which gives man visions, was his means to obtaining his knowledge.”

“Finally, there is Mahohkutihax, the Black Tailless One. His true name is Mahohcuatah, Lord Who Gathers His Twin. His means was his will.”

“When any man attempts to transform himself into another being, one of these methods will be his means to achieving it. It is impossible to know beforehand which method will work for him.” He looked me over and said, “Right now, we can probably exclude the mushroom since none of the omens at the festival indicated that you should learn about the mushroom. More likely one of the other methods will work. You are learning dreaming, you are ingesting the weed, and my son and the Cabicacmotz will show you how to tune your will. Their work will be undermined by your use of the seven-pronged weed, but it is still a possibility. Of course, if none of these other methods work, you will be compelled to use the mushroom.”

“Are you saying that the Balam Ch’ab will only teach me to become a jaguar through the method of Mahohcuatah?”

The Ahtzic Uinac placed his chin in his palm and thought for a few moments. “Yes, that is what I am saying. Do not worry, though, his methods will prepare you well to become a jaguar no matter which lineage you eventually fall in to. Not all of his men are of his same line. He is simply the leader of the Jaguar Knights. The men who can transform into jaguars are called the Balam Qotih, the Double Jaguars, regardless of which lineage they come from. All such men are required to work as Jaguar Knights. The means are not important, the goal is. The exercises he will make you perform will affect your thoughts while under the weed and they will be memorable enough that you will recall them in your dreaming. We are all interested in seeing which lineage will claim you.”

“If the Balam Ch’ab belongs to the lineage of Mahocuatah, the line that uses the will, why then was he spotted and with a tail?” I asked.

He laughed at my question, as if it was the question of a young child. “That was how the grandfather of the lineage appeared when he formed his double. It does not mean that his whole line will be the same way. When a man uses the will to change, he must keep in mind all of the qualities of the jaguar. Perhaps he was enchanted by the loveliness of the dark jaguar. Personally, I believe that he chose it because it requires less thought and he would not have to use extra energy in willing his spots into existence. The same thing probably happened with his tail, he did not consider it worthy of the energy it took to form it. Our Jaguar Knights have come very far in their art since those days.”

The trees gave way and before us was a wall of stone, taller than the height of a man. We walked a little ways and saw the Balam Ch’ab seated on top of it. There did not seem to be any gate. He looked me in the eye and nodded. He did not smile or welcome me. He reached behind him, threw a rope ladder down the wall, and climbed down.

“Go into the training camp and wait for me,” he told me. “I must greet my father and see him off.”

Chahel leaped up to the rounded top of the wall. She growled, as she seemed to slip or lose her footing. Then she was lost to sight behind the wall.

I said goodbye to the Ahtzic Uinac and Tukumux. Then I climbed into the camp.

Chapter 1 – Middle (2nd Draft)

When I was halfway down the temple, I noticed that he was almost to the base and said, “Uncle, wait for me.”

He looked back with a frown and sat to wait for me. When I reached him, he patted the step he was sitting on to invite me to sit with him. I did. He said, “Zaki, I have been remiss in teaching you formal manners. I told you not to refer to me as your uncle because you would inadvertently do so in front of your fellow students. I am the Cabicacmotz, the blazing star from the Pleiades; refer to me by my title.” He jutted his chin towards the slow moving group we were to meet. “Only call that man Ahtzic Uinac. His time is near; give him the tribute of his title. Do not refer to him in the honorifics of polite social speech. Only use the formal, Ahtzic Uinac. We become our titles. If you do otherwise, you deny him the power of his office and you will diminish his story. In addition, to do otherwise is disrespectful. Do the same with the Balam Ch’ab.”

There was no way that I was going to call the Balam Ch’ab anything else. I appreciated the advice. Anything that kept me out of trouble with the man was a worthy activity in my eyes. I nodded and told him that I would do so.

We waited for the palanquin, as we stood before the temple. Pale green cloths that fluttered in the early breeze covered the compartment. I could see that the men chosen to uphold it were all of the same height and build to ensure a smooth ride for the one traveling. When it neared, I heard a man laughing behind the canopy cloths. “What a memory you have, Cabicacmotz.”

“T a kazah r a vach (lower your eyes), and bow your head briefly, Zaki,” the Cabicacmotz whispered to me.

I did what he asked as the child of innocence, Tukumux, parted the curtains to reveal a wizened man with a long white braid. He was wrinkled from age and sun, but still his eyes were sharp and bright.

The old man smiled at me and motioned me with his hand to come closer. “Come, come,” he said. “Let me see you, young prince.”

The closer I came to the palanquin, the more I could smell jasmine. At its threshold, I saw that bits of the vine were scattered around the man. Underneath, was the smell of age. Not yet was it the scent, which signals the approach of death.

Again, I did as the Cabicacmotz had told me. The Ahtzic Uinac imitated my movements. Then he touched my cheek. His hand was cold and dry, yet soft like a scholar’s palm. “You favor your mother,” he said and looked towards the Cabicacmotz. “Perhaps you will even sprout hair upon your chin as this one did. I see he has tired of using unguents to remove it.”

Unlike the men of my tribe, the Cabicacmotz had a small beard that he kept trimmed close to his face. In the sunlight, it was almost golden, marking him as foreign.

“Thank you for remembering my youth to me,” he said to the Cabicacmotz.

“You honor me with your thanks, Ahtzic Uinac.”

They continued to exchange polite words until the Ahtzic Uinac clapped his hands lightly and Tukumux pinned the curtain of the palanquin back. The other attendants set the story-master down and rubbed their hands. Two fresh attendants took hold of the rear bars and lifted them up so the Ahtzic Uinac was tilted towards the sky. In the compartment, he stretched his legs and rested them against a foot brace. He seemed to be leaning back as they began dragging the palanquin towards the jungle. “Come, young man. We are off to see my son.”

We left the Cabicacmotz behind. Chahel walked next to Tukumux with his hand on her neck. I should not have been surprised; my cat had many friendships that I was only now learning about.

“You come from an esteemed line, Zaki,” the Ahtzic Uinac said. “Your father, mother, and uncle have the blood of genius. It is good that the king has more than one wife. In that manner, your uncle can further combine his blood with your father’s. Much is expected of you and any offspring he and your sister, Maricua produce.”

The Cabicacmotz was soon to marry my half-sister. She was the first and only child of the first eastern wife that my father married. Unfortunately, Maricua’s mother had died before I ever knew her. The current eastern wife was a harridan. When she married my father, she refused to accept Maricua and forced my father to build her a new home. Her property was the East-East home. Maricua and I lived in the West-East home, where she grew up. My mother had loved Maricua and treated her as her own child. My father had thrown protocol to the winds and taken on a fifth wife, my mother. Many in the tribe considered mine a bastard birth even though the sacerdotal chief, before the whole tribe, had united them through the marriage rite.

“When I was a young boy, I watched the famed building engineer, Puch’um Maram, build the temple you and the Cabicacmotz descended.”

His statement excited me. Never had I seen the building of one of the great temples. Even now, in such an early generation, the building of the temples was shrouded in secrets and myth. The architects and masons were a close-lipped group and deliberately restricted knowledge of proper construction. If someone hoped to learn anything, he had to ask the men who built roofs. The two groups were always at odds and despised each other. The roofers wanted no part in secrets and refused to help the others give themselves airs.

“How did they do it?” I asked.

He smiled and said, “In the most obvious way. They used sand.”

“Sand? For what?”

“Think about it. It is one matter to drag a large stone with a rope across the ground and another matter entirely to lift that same stone up steep and narrow steps. Why did you think that the temple complex was so devoid of any greenery? We are on the same level as the jungle, but the jungle is verdant and fertile. Life blooms easily in its soil. Here, it is the barren sand of wastelands and deserts because we see the deep sand, which the temple builders dug up to assist them in their works. They spread it around the construction site and the job was easier for them.”

I told him about a game I had as a young child. It consisted of small blocks of stone and I often built pyramids with them.

“But did your temples have rooms inside?”

“Only on the top-most level, as these do, did I include rooms.” I always believed that I had built accurate and perfectly formed temples.

He leaned out towards me, beyond the shade of his canopy and whispered, “These do have rooms inside.” He chuckled softly and leaned back as he saw my eyes widen.

Now it was my turn to lean towards him. “What do you mean, Ahtzic Uinac?” I said in a low voice. “Do you mean that they are hollow inside?”

He grimaced and tilted his head side to side as if unsure how to answer my question. “Not completely. Some only have a small room and some have more.” He raised his eyebrows and jutted out his bottom lip. “What do you think about that?”

I was amazed because there were no indications that they were not solid. They had no openings. “What did they put in there? Are they tombs?”

“No, they are not tombs. The temporary tombs are used for three days on the topmost level before the sarcophagus is transferred to the earth or the body to flame. Your question would be more apt if you asked me about what they put in there now.”

My speech stuttered as I asked him.

“Two or three priests or acolytes are always at attention within each opening. When they hear a particular noise from their comrades, they push the stone outward and other attendants push the stone back in.”

His statements confounded me. I looked at the temples in fascination. The knowledge that people were in there in the darkness filled me with horror. “What do they do in there?”

“Indeed, that is the question.” His lip curled up in disgust. “Beware of those who call themselves solely by the name of Balam.”

“Do you mean that I should be scared of your son and the Cabicacmotz?” My body was in a state of alarm and the heat of the day could not take away the goose bumps on my arms and neck.

“No. No. I do not mean that. My son is the Balam Ch’ab. The Cabicacmotz plays with the Balami, the Jaguars. No. They are both honorable men and you have nothing to fear from them. No. I mean the priests who call themselves only by the unadorned title of Balam.”

I did not know what to say. Never had I spoken to one of the temple priests. Many times, I had seen them in the marketplace or around the temples. They always wore black and seemed somber and unapproachable. My father disliked them and refused to take any as an advisor. Because of that, there had never been any opportunity for me to meet any of them. From what I had heard, my father was not the only one who disliked them.

We were at the entrance to the pathway into the jungle. The two attendants gently set the palanquin on the ground as eight men prepared to carry it back up. No longer could they drag the conveyance. Level earth was behind us.

Chapter 1 – Beginning (3rd Draft)

When the experiment at Tulan failed, the Creator cursed our endeavor by scrambling the speech of the tribes. Each tribe knew they must flee in all directions and never see each other again. Before they disbanded fully, the tribes were able to agree upon one symbol of their knowledge, which they could use to identify each other in the future, should they happen to cross paths again. That symbol was the twin boys. In our language, they were called Hunahpu and Xbalanque. All of our knowledge led back to that base. Perhaps they were real, most likely they were not, but the boys were a subterfuge that contained hidden truths about the nature of man and the power he could attain if he followed specific steps. We were the Toltecs and we knew how to apply those steps. Now, we were poised to break our secrets open and teach them to the foreign tribes around us. We would teach them about the twin.

Our own tribe had long ago splintered. Recently, we learned that they were still alive and misusing their knowledge to subjugate and dominate the peoples around them. We felt responsible for their continued existence. They worshipped demons disguised as deities. They were idolaters. They were sacrificers of men.

Naualalom, the king, had sent envoys of war to the peoples around us to secure them as allies against the dark ones. Ambassadors and royalty were filing into our city to learn how to protect themselves from our estranged brothers. Pochtecas, landless and itinerant merchants, had also become our allies and were now in our midst. We would make brothers of them all.

So scattered were the original tribes of Tulan that only once had ours heard of the twins from another people. My uncle, the Cabicacmotz, was of a brother tribe. His sister and he had shipwrecked on our shores and been adopted into the tribe. No one knew where he had come from, not even he. Because he was identified as coming from the original tribes of Tulan, he was accepted and welcomed into our society. He became the principal teacher of wisdom as well as the chief advisor to my father, Naualalom.

All children from the noble houses were required to learn with the Cabicacmotz and other teachers. Children from the lower castes would learn alongside us only if an important sign pointed them out as special. My only friends were from the fieldworker’s class. They were Hac and Cham. Their parents had been elevated to landowners, given a new home and a farm with field hands. It was a great honor to have a child being trained to have their genius emerge. For me, it was not left to chance. It was required.

At the Festival of Adults, portents determined that I would learn to smoke the seven-pronged leaf from the Etamanel Evan. He was an odd man who dressed like a beggar and his instruction was to be overseen by his superior the Tzuhunik, since his slovenly teaching methods were under review. The female sentries, the Chuchmox, would teach me gazing. Ahtoobalvar, a sculptor and a master of the double, was my dreaming teacher. The Cabicacmotz and his teammates, the Jaguars, would teach me how to play the ballgame Bateh and I was apprenticed to my father to learn the art of governance. The one that filled me with fright, though, was the Balam Ch’ab.

It was my thirteenth day of instruction in the arts. My appointment was with the Balam Ch’ab. An omen at the festival of Adults had determined that I would learn how to transform myself into a jaguar as he could.

It was early morning and I stood upon one of the temple roofs with the Cabicacmotz and Chahel, my pet jaguar and constant companion. The jungle canopy to the east shaded the barren floor of the complex. The temple tops glinted with a golden hue as if tears of a god had just dripped on them from above. Soon they would come alive like fire. From our vantage point, we could see the fires of the pochtecas as they camped in the fields before the jungle. Chuchmox, female sentries, were at their posts, reclined like statues as they kept watch over our lands. Their bright clothing, reflecting their directions, stood out in the shadowed gloom.

I was so nervous that my bowels felt loose. Once again, I questioned the Cabicacmotz as to why I had to go and see the Balam Ch’ab. The question never changed and the answer never did, either.

“You must go because a pebble lodged in the heel of your sandal.”

It was true and I considered it the feeblest of omens. At the festival, when we were near the Balam Ch’ab’s group, I had to walk on the balls of my feet because of that blasted pebble. The Cabicacmotz explained to me that since the stone had forced me to walk like a jaguar, I was destined to learn that art. Unfortunately, the Balam Ch’ab was the first in his group to see the omen. How I wished the pebble had made me walk on the heels of my feet.

Last night, he had spoken to me at my father’s compound. He did his best to put me at ease, yet I found him too sober and pious. He spoke of many things, such as the Creator and his distaste in hearing that I would have lessons with the Etamanel Evan. Being just a boy; I had no defense against his use of words and logic.

When I expressed my lack of faith in the divine because of murder and other things I disliked about the world, he chided me and told me that I was not searching for the Creator, but for a puppet-master.

He said, “You want a god who will protect you from others who are exercising their freewill. You despise the idea of freewill. People talk about how they love having freewill, but that is a lie. Everyone actually would prefer freedom from choice. At least, freedom from the choices of others. Come to terms with the knowledge that in this world, everything is permitted, but not everything is sanctioned by the Creator. We can do anything we please, but that does not make it right. In this world, savagery is possible, but so also is great good. It is as if he has given us autonomy to see what we make of it. Perhaps only through self-governance can we understand his governance.”

His every word appealed to my reason, yet I still felt guilt and anger at growing up without my mother. My mind was a calm sea, rationally taking in everything he said and my heart was a boiling pot, ready to spill liquid and wrath wherever it could. I felt split in two.

When he had shown up at my father’s home, he had interrupted a lesson that I was to have with the seven-pronged leaf. He disliked the use of plants, but grudgingly conceded a point to me when I countered his opinions with the example of the Tzuhunik, who spoke and behaved in a clear and orderly manner.

He replied, “I’ve mentioned that plants get you from your everyday awareness to another point of reality so quickly that you can never hope to get there again without the help of the plant. The Tzuhunik has my respect because he has noticed a very important point in the whole process. Plants might get one to another point of reality too fast for one to learn how to do it, but that is not necessarily the true role of plants; it is only one of their drawbacks. Their real role is to provide the possibility of another point.”

I forget the rest of his statements about the weed, but when he saw that I did not understand his point, he clarified it by saying, “Do you see, Zaki? Without plants, man might never conceive that there are other possibilities of being. That is why we need plants. Not because they carry us from everyday reality to extraordinary reality, but because we could never conceive that those states of reality even exist, on our own. That is their gift. Possibility.”

It made me feel better, yet I still knew that the weed might make me lax and weak-willed. I also knew that he would watch me closely to make sure that I did not allow myself to become either.

The Cabicacmotz pulled my attentions back to the temple top. He pointed to a parade of figures in the distance. “There is the Balam Ch’ab’s father, the Ahtzic Uinac, the master storyteller.”

I saw a palanquin carried by eight men in the group and asked him what it was. Palanquins were seldom used and usually only by visiting royal women. My father had an entourage of guards, but it was his custom to walk in the open.

“The Ahtzic Uinac is a frail and elderly man. He would not be able to get around at all, but for his attendants. To accompany you to see the Balam Ch’ab is beyond his abilities. The training home is deep in the jungle.”

“Why does he need to come along? I don’t want to force a man out of his sickbed just to walk into the jungle with me. Why can’t you walk me there?”

The Cabicacmotz looked at me as if was a fool. After a moment, his face softened and he said, “I forget you are young, Zaki. You never learned how things were done. This is the story-master’s duty. That man has enough will to get out of bed to accompany a prince to his first lesson with his own son, the great Balam Ch’ab. He would never pass along this duty, not even to his named successor. So be polite and listen to everything he says. His story will hold lessons for you regarding the changing of a man into a jaguar.”

He climbed down from the roof of the altar and helped me down.

Chapter 1 – Continuation (1st Draft)

When I was halfway down the temple, I noticed that he was much farther along than I was and said, “Uncle, wait for me.”

He looked back with a frown and sat to wait for me. When I reached him, he patted the step he was sitting on to invite me to sit with him. I did. He said, “Zaki, I have been remiss in teaching you formal manners. I told you not to refer to me as your uncle because you would inadvertently do so in front of your fellow students. I am the Cabicacmotz, the blazing star from the Pleiades; refer to me by my title.” He jutted his chin towards the slow moving group we were to meet. “Only call that man Ahtzic Uinac. His time is near; give him the tribute of his title. Do not refer to him in the honorifics of polite social speech. Only use the formal, Ahtzic Uinac. We become our titles. If you do otherwise, you deny him the power of his office and you will diminish his story. In addition, to do otherwise is disrespectful. Do the same with the Balam Ch’ab.”

There was no way that I was going to call the Balam Ch’ab anything else. I appreciated the advice; however, anything that kept me out of trouble with the man was a worthy activity in my eyes. I nodded and told him that I would do so.

We waited for the palanquin, standing before the temple. When it neared, I heard a man laughing behind the canopy cloths. “What a memory you have, Cabicacmotz.”

“T a kazah r a vach (lower your eyes), and bow your head briefly, Zaki,” the Cabicacmotz whispered to me.

I did what he asked as the child of innocence, Tukumux, parted the curtains to reveal a wizened man with white hair. The old man smiled at me and motioned me with his hand to come closer. “Come, come,” he said. “Let me see you, young prince.”

The closer I came to the palanquin, the more I could smell jasmine. When I was at its threshold, I saw that bits of the vine were scattered around the Ahtzic Uinac. Underneath, there was the smell of age. Not yet was it the scent, which signals the approach of death.

Again, I did as the Cabicacmotz had told me. The Ahtzic Uinac imitated my movements. Then he touched my cheek. His hand was cold and dry, yet soft like a scholar’s palm. “You favor your mother,” he said and looked towards the Cabicacmotz. “Perhaps you will even sprout hair upon your chin as this one did. I see he has tired of using unguents on it to remove it.”

Unlike the men of my tribe, the Cabicacmotz had a small beard that he kept trimmed close to his face. In the sunlight, it was almost golden, marking him as foreign.

“Thank you for remembering my youth to me,” he said to the Cabicacmotz.

“You honor me with your thanks, Ahtzic Uinac.”

The Ahtzic Uinac clapped his hands lightly and Tukumux pinned the curtain of the palanquin back. The other attendants set the story-master down and rubbed their hands. Two fresh attendants took hold of the front bars and lifted them up so the Ahtzic Uinac was tilted towards the sky. They began dragging the palanquin towards the jungle. “Come, young man. We are off to see my son.”

We left the Cabicacmotz behind. Chahel walked next to Tukumux with his hand on her neck. I should not have been surprised; my cat had many friendships that I was only now learning about.

“You come from an esteemed line, Zaki,” the Ahtzic Uinac said. “Your father, mother, and uncle have the blood of genius. It is good that the king has more than one wife. In that manner, your uncle can further combine his blood with your father’s. Much is expected of you and any offspring he and your sister, Maricua produce.”

The Cabicacmotz was soon to marry my half-sister. She was the first and only child of the first eastern wife that my father married. Unfortunately, Maricua’s mother had died before I ever knew her. The current eastern wife was a harridan. When she married my father, she refused to accept Maricua and forced my father to build her a new home. Her property was the East-East home. Maricua and I lived in the West-East home, where she grew up. My mother had loved Maricua and treated her as her own child. My father had thrown protocol to the winds and taken on a fifth wife, my mother. Many in the tribe considered mine a bastard birth even though the sacerdotal chief, before the whole tribe, had united them through the marriage rite.

“When I was a young boy, I watched the famed building engineer, Puch’um Maram, build the temple you and the Cabicacmotz descended.”

His statement excited me. Never had I seen the building of one of the great temples. Even now, in such an early generation, the building of the temples was shrouded in secrets and myth. The architects and masons were a close-lipped group and deliberately restricted knowledge of proper construction. If someone hoped to learn anything, he had to ask the men who built roofs. The two groups were always at odds and despised each other. The roofers wanted no part in secrets and refused to help the others give themselves airs.

“How did they do it?” I asked.

He smiled and said, “In the most obvious way. They used sand.”

“Sand? For what?”

“Think about it. It is one matter to drag a large stone with a rope across the ground and another matter entirely to lift that same stone up steep and narrow steps. Why did you think that the temple complex was so devoid of any greenery? We are on the same level as the jungle, but the jungle is verdant and fertile. Life blooms easily in its soil. Here, it is the barren sand of wastelands and deserts because we see the deep sand, which the temple builders dug up to assist them in their works. They spread it around the construction site and the job was easier for them.”

I told him about a game I had as a young child. It consisted of small blocks of stone and I often built pyramids with them.

“But did your temples have rooms inside?”

“Only on the top-most level, as these do, did I include rooms.” I always believed that I had built accurate and perfectly formed temples.

He leaned out towards me, beyond the shade of his canopy and whispered, “These do have rooms inside.” He chuckled softly and leaned back as he saw my eyes widen.

Now it was my turn to lean towards him. “What do you mean, Ahtzic Uinac?” I said in a low voice. “Do you mean that they are hollow inside?”

He grimaced and tilted his head side to side as if unsure how to answer my question. “Not completely. Some only have a small room and some have more.” He raised his eyebrows and jutted out his bottom lip. “What do you think about that?”

I was amazed because there were no indications that they were not solid. They had no openings. “What did they put in there? Are they tombs?”

“No, they are not tombs. The temporary tombs are used for three days on the topmost level before the sarcophagus is transferred to the earth. Your question would be more apt if you asked me about what they put in there now.”

My speech stuttered as I asked him.

“Two or three priests or acolytes are always at attention within each opening. When they hear a particular noise from their comrades, they push the stone outward and other attendants push the stone back in.”

His statements confounded me. I looked at the temples in fascination. The knowledge that people were in there in the darkness filled me with horror. “What do they do in there?”

“Indeed, that is the question.” His lip curled up in disgust. “Beware of those who call themselves solely by the name of Balam.”

“Do you mean that I should be scared of your son and the Cabicacmotz?” My body was in a state of alarm and the heat of the day could not take away the goose bumps on my arms and neck.

“No. No. I do not mean that. My son is the Balam Ch’ab. The Cabicacmotz plays with the Balami, the Jaguars. No. They are both honorable men and you have nothing to fear from them. No. I mean the priests who call themselves only by the unadorned title of Balam.”

I did not know what to say. Never had I spoken to one of the temple priests. Many times, I had seen them in the marketplace or around the temples. They always wore black and seemed somber and unapproachable. My father disliked them and refused to take any as an advisor. Because of that, there had never been any opportunity for me to meet any of them. From what I had heard, my father was not the only one who disliked them.

We were at the entrance to the pathway into the jungle. The two attendants gently set the palanquin on the ground as eight men prepared to carry it back up. No longer could they drag the conveyance. Level earth was behind us.

Chapter 1 – Beginning (2nd Draft)

When the experiment at Tulan failed, the Creator cursed our endeavor by scrambling the speech of the tribes. Each tribe knew they must flee in all directions and never see each other again. Before they disbanded fully, the tribes were able to agree upon one symbol of their knowledge, which they could use to identify each other in the future, should they happen to cross paths again. That symbol was the twin boys. In our language, they were called Hunahpu and Xbalanque. All of our knowledge led back to that base. Perhaps they were real, most likely they were not, but the boys were a subterfuge that contained hidden truths about the nature of man and the power he could attain if he followed specific steps. We were the Toltecs and we knew how to apply those steps. Now, we were poised to break our secrets open and teach them to the foreign tribes around us. We would teach them about the twin.

Our own tribe had long ago splintered. Recently, we learned that they were still alive and sowing evil everywhere as they misused sacred knowledge to dominate the peoples around them. We felt responsible for their continued existence. They worshipped demons disguised as deities. They were idolaters. They were sacrificers of men.

Naualalom, the king, had sent envoys of war to the peoples around us to secure them as allies against the dark ones. Ambassadors and royalty were filing into our city to learn how to protect themselves from our estranged brothers. Pochtecas, landless and itinerant merchants, had also become our allies and were now in our midst. We would make brothers of them all.

So scattered were the original tribes of Tulan that only once had ours heard of the twins from another people. My uncle, the Cabicacmotz, was of a brother tribe. His sister and he had shipwrecked on our shores and been adopted into the tribe. No one knew where he had come from, not even he. Because he was identified as coming from the original tribes of Tulan, he was accepted and welcomed into our society. He became the principal teacher of wisdom as well as the chief advisor to my father, Naualalom.

It was my thirteenth day of instruction in the arts. My appointment was with the Balam Ch’ab. Omens at the Festival of Adults had determined that I would learn how to transform myself into a jaguar as he could.

At the festival, omens determined that I would learn to smoke the seven-pronged leaf from the Etamanel Evan. He was an odd man who dressed like a beggar and his instruction was to be overseen by his superior the Tzuhunik, since his slovenly teaching methods were under review. The female sentries, the Chuchmox, would teach me gazing. Ahtoobalvar, a sculptor and a master of the double, was my dreaming teacher. The Cabicacmotz and his teammates, the Jaguars, would teach me how to play the ballgame Bateh and I was apprenticed to my father to learn the art of governance. The one that filled me with fright, though, was the Balam Ch’ab.

It was early morning and I stood upon one of the temple roofs with the Cabicacmotz and Chahel, my pet jaguar and constant companion. The jungle canopy to the east shaded the barren floor of the complex. The temple tops glinted with a golden hue as if tears of a god had just dripped on them from above. Soon they would come alive like fire. From our vantage point, we could see the fires of the pochtecas as they camped in the fields before the jungle. Chuchmox, female sentries, were at their posts, reclined like statues as they kept watch over our lands. Their bright clothing, reflecting their directions, stood out in the shadowed gloom.

I was so nervous that my bowels felt loose. Once again, I questioned the Cabicacmotz as to why I had to go and see the Balam Ch’ab. The question never changed and the answer never did either.

“You must go because a pebble lodged in the heel of your sandal.”

It was true and I considered it the feeblest of omens. At the festival, when we were near the Balam Ch’ab’s group, I had to walk on the balls of my feet because of that blasted pebble. The Cabicacmotz explained to me that since the stone had forced me to walk like a jaguar, I was destined to learn that art. Unfortunately, the Balam Ch’ab was the first in his group to see the omen. How I wished the pebble had made me walk on the heels of my feet.

Last night, he had spoken to me at my father’s compound. He did his best to put me at ease, yet I found him too sober and pious. He spoke of many things, such as the Creator and his distaste in hearing that I would have lessons with the Etamanel Evan. Being just a boy; I had no defense against his use of words and logic.

When I expressed my lack of faith in the divine because of murder and other things I disliked about the world, he chided me and told me that I was not searching for the Creator, but for a puppet-master.

He said, “You want a god who will protect you from others who are exercising their freewill. You despise the idea of freewill. People talk about how they love having freewill, but that is a lie. Everyone actually would prefer freedom from choice. At least, freedom from the choices of others. Come to terms with the knowledge that in this world, everything is permitted, but not everything is sanctioned by the Creator. We can do anything we please, but that does not make it right. In this world, savagery is possible, but so also is great good. It is as if he has given us autonomy to see what we make of it. Perhaps only through self-governance can we understand his governance.”

His every word appealed to my reason, yet I still felt guilt and anger at growing up without my mother. My mind was a calm sea, rationally taking in everything he said and my heart was a boiling pot, ready to spill liquid and wrath wherever it could. I felt split in two.

When he had shown up at my father’s home, he had interrupted a lesson that I was to have with the seven-pronged leaf. He disliked the use of plants, but grudgingly conceded a point to me when I countered his opinions with the example of the Tzuhunik, who spoke and behaved in a clear and orderly manner.

He replied, “I’ve mentioned that plants get you from your everyday awareness to another point of reality so quickly that you can never hope to get there again without the help of the plant. The Tzuhunik has my respect because he has noticed a very important point in the whole process. Plants might get one to another point of reality too fast for one to learn how to do it, but that is not necessarily the true role of plants; it is only one of their drawbacks. Their real role is to provide the possibility of another point.”

I forget the rest of his statements about the weed, but when he saw that I did not understand his point, he clarified it by saying, “Do you see, Zaki? Without plants, man might never conceive that there are other possibilities of being. That is why we need plants. Not because they carry us from everyday reality to extraordinary reality, but because we could never conceive that those states of reality even exist, on our own. That is their gift. Possibility.”

It made me feel better, yet I still knew that the weed might make me lax and weak-willed. I also knew that he would watch me closely to make sure that I did not allow myself to become either.

The Cabicacmotz pulled my attentions back to the temple top. He pointed to a parade of figures in the distance. “There is the Balam Ch’ab’s father, the Ahtzic Uinac, the master storyteller.”

I saw a palanquin carried by eight men in the group and asked him what it was. Palanquins were seldom used and usually only by visiting royal women. My father had an entourage of guards, but it was his custom to walk in the open.

“The Ahtzic Uinac is a frail and elderly man. He would not be able to get around at all, but for his attendants. To accompany you to see the Balam Ch’ab is beyond his abilities. The training home is deep in the jungle.”

“Why does he need to come along? I don’t want to force a man out of his sickbed just to walk into the jungle with me. Why can’t you walk me there?”

The Cabicacmotz looked at me as if was a fool. After a moment, his face softened and he said, “I forget you are young, Zaki. You never learned how things were done. This is the story-master’s duty. That man has enough will to get out of bed to accompany a prince to his first lesson with his own son, the great Balam Ch’ab. He would never pass along this duty, not even to his named successor. So be polite and listen to everything he says. His story will hold lessons for you regarding the changing of a man into a jaguar.”

He climbed down from the roof of the altar and helped me down.

Prologue – 3rd Draft

Schooling in my day served the same purpose schooling today serves, to give flexibility to the intellect. To be able to think poetically, economically, as well as mathematically gives the mind several tracks in which to choose from when faced with certain situations. Then, to be able to find a solution through dreaming, gazing or through movement supplied the means to deal with life’s problems. Today, there are socially acceptable ways to handle the world around us. Our means were more esoteric and less constrained than modern man’s is. In many ways, it was better as it offered man more possibilities of choice.

The Toltec society was not ideal. None is, but there was beauty and wonder for us. We were children in a new world and the only tools we had to protect ourselves with were our perception and will. Thus, we prospered and learned what man today has forgotten or never bothered to learn.

There were the usual endemic problems, which plague any people. There were the petty cruelties that humans visit upon another that easily break the spirit’s of the delicate. The ignorant cast their insults with casualness and the sensitive bear them with utter seriousness. It was pure savagery when male homosexuals were exiled or killed outright. There was the locking up of adulterous women with the Chuchmox to train them to be faithful wives. I never heard of the males receiving similar instruction. I suspect they received only better advice on how to hide such indiscretions from their wives. If men and women have ever been treated by the same standard, I do not know of it. Today, it is better, but still unequal.

Yet even in a society where humans were compelled to conform, there was a deep appreciation for the different and the unusual. Occasionally children were born with deformities or imperfections. Now, birth defects are treated through surgery to eliminate any indication that the child was born different. Such a thing would have been unthinkable and odious to us. We celebrated it. It was considered an omen of power and much was expected of those who were born different if their intellects were undiminished.

Dwarfism, in particular, was seen to be a fortunate occurrence. The birth of a dwarf was a wondrous omen of luck. The Zaqui Coxol, the White Sparkstriker, was a famous dwarf in our oral history who had the ability to see into the future. These were not things to be ashamed of; physical manifestations outside of the norm decreed that the child had been touched by power. Children with a clubfoot or malformed hand were often called Jaguar Paw or a similar name. The blind, deaf, and mute were thought special, especially in esoteric ways because they sensed the world through alternate means. Individuals who were mentally challenged because of what is now known as Down’s syndrome or other forms of mental retardation were valued as workers because of their sweet manners, ability to focus on detail, and facility in keeping secrets. We referred to them as the children of innocence. These people taught diplomacy to our outgoing ambassadors, such was their renown for courteousness.

Each member of the tribe who was born different was in the thick of things. We discovered many unknown talents that man was capable of through them. They were not marginalized or relegated to sanitariums or the inside of the parental home. The different were not treated with contempt or pity; they were simply another member of the tribe. Never did our society engender in them the bitterness that can only be expressed through sarcasm.

As the modern world teaches its youth to be master merchants, scientists or lawyers, so also did ours teach us to be valued members of the tribe. The difference is that our changes were performed on three levels and our transformations were true. They taught us to become jaguars, eagles, crows, and other animals, as well as training us to be astronomers, warriors, or artisans.

In order to accomplish this, our teachers aimed their teachings to the three parts of man: the body, the spirit, and the dreamer. To be a Toltec was to be a lord of the life force. To be a lord of the life force meant that a man controlled all three parts of him and became what the Creator intended, a being who could traverse the three realms. Heaven, all of earth, and the underworld were attainable to us. So was immortality.

I learned we are immortal until we die. I had eons upon the earth to learn that lesson. My time came and went and I have returned. If a man has an incarnation lasting lifetimes of time, once he dies, he is sent back for one further incarnation. In that life, he must achieve what my lord taught me. He must bring forth the precious twin.

I have already remembered myself and am able to bring it forth from me, for I am the first disciple of the Precious Twin, Lord Quitzalcuat. I am Zaki Raxa Palo.

Chapter 1 – Beginning (1st Draft)

When the experiment at Tulan failed, the Creator cursed our endeavor by scrambling the speech of the tribes. Each tribe knew they must flee in all directions and never see each other again. Before they disbanded fully, the tribes were able to agree upon one symbol of their knowledge, which they could use to identify each other in the future, should they happen to cross paths again. That symbol was the twin boys. In our language, they were called Hunahpu and Xbalanque. All of our knowledge led back to that base. Perhaps they were real, most likely they were not, but the boys were a subterfuge that contained hidden truths about the nature of man and the power he could attain if he followed specific steps. We were the Toltecs and we knew how to apply those steps. Now, we were poised to break our secrets open and teach them to the foreign tribes around us. We would teach them about the twin.

Our own tribe had long ago splintered. Recently, we learned that they were still alive and sowing evil everywhere as they misused sacred knowledge to dominate the peoples around them. We felt responsible for their continued existence. They worshipped demons disguised as deities. They were idolaters. They were sacrificers of men.

Naualalom, the king, had sent envoys of war to the peoples around us to secure them as allies against the dark ones. Ambassadors and royalty were filing into our city to learn how to protect themselves from our brothers. Pochtecas, landless and itinerant merchants, had also become our allies and were now in our midst. We would make brothers of them all.

So scattered were the original tribes of Tulan that only once had ours heard of the twins from another people. My uncle, the Cabicacmotz, was of a brother tribe. His sister and he had shipwrecked on our shores and been adopted into the tribe. No one knew where he had come from, not even he. Because he was identified as coming from the original tribes of Tulan, he was accepted and welcomed into our society. He became the principal teacher of wisdom as well as the chief advisor to my father, Naualalom.

It was my thirteenth day of instruction in the arts. My appointment was with the Balam Ch’ab. Omens at the Festival of Adults had determined that I would learn how to transform myself into a jaguar as he could.

I would learn to smoke the seven-pronged leaf from the Etamanel Evan, whose instruction was to be overseen by his superior the Tzuhunik, since his slovenly teaching methods were under review. The female sentries, the Chuchmox, would teach me gazing. Ahtoobalvar, a sculptor and a master of the double, was my dreaming teacher. The Cabicacmotz and his teammates, the Jaguars, would teach me how to play the ballgame Bateh and I was apprenticed to my father to learn the art of governance. The one that filled me with fright, though, was the Balam Ch’ab.

It was early morning and I stood upon one of the temples with the Cabicacmotz and Chahel, my pet jaguar and constant companion. We could see the fires of the pochtecas as they camped in the fields before the jungle. I was so nervous that my bowels felt loose. I questioned him as to why I had to go and see the Balam Ch’ab.

“You must go because a pebble lodged in the heel of your sandal.”

It was true and I considered it the feeblest of omens. At the festival, when we were near the Balam Ch’ab’s group, I had to walk on the balls of my feet because of that blasted pebble. The Cabicacmotz explained to me that since the stone had forced me to walk like a jaguar, I was destined to learn that art. Unfortunately, the Balam Ch’ab was the first in his group to see the omen. How I wished the pebble had made me walk on the heels of my feet.

Last night, he had spoken to me at my father’s compound. He did his best to put me at ease, yet I found him too sober and pious. He spoke of many things, such as the Creator and his distaste in hearing that I would have lessons with the Etamanel Evan. Being just a boy; I had no defense against his use of words and logic.

When I expressed my lack of faith in the divine because of murder and other things I disliked about the world, he chided me and told me that I was not searching for the Creator, but for a puppet-master.

He said, “You want a god who will protect you from others who are exercising their freewill. You despise the idea of freewill. People talk about how they love having freewill, but that is a lie. Everyone actually would prefer freedom from choice. At least, freedom from the choices of others. Come to terms with the knowledge that in this world, everything is permitted, but not everything is sanctioned by the Creator. We can do anything we please, but that does not make it right. In this world, savagery is possible, but so also is great good. It is as if he has given us autonomy to see what we make of it. Perhaps only through self-governance can we understand his governance.”

His every word appealed to my reason, yet I still felt guilt and anger at growing up without my mother. My mind was a calm sea, rationally taking in everything he said and my heart was a boiling pot, ready to spill liquid and wrath wherever it could. I felt split in two.

When he had shown up at my father’s home, he had interrupted a lesson that I was to have with the seven-pronged leaf. He disliked the use of plants, but grudgingly conceded a point to me when I countered his opinions with the clear-headed and orderly thinking of the Tzuhunik.

He replied, “I’ve mentioned that plants get you from your everyday awareness to another point of reality so quickly that you can never hope to get there again without the help of the plant. The Tzuhunik has my respect because he has noticed a very important point in the whole process. Plants might get one to another point of reality too fast for one to learn how to do it, but that is not necessarily the true role of plants; it is only one of their drawbacks. Their real role is to provide the possibility of another point… Do you see, Zaki? Without plants, man might never conceive that there are other possibilities of being. That is why we need plants. Not because they carry us from everyday reality to extraordinary reality, but because we could never conceive that those states of reality even exist, on our own. That is their gift. Possibility.”

It made me feel better, yet I still knew that the weed might make me lax and weak-willed and that he would always be watching me close to make sure that I did not allow myself to become either.

The Cabicacmotz pulled my attentions back to the temple top. He pointed to a parade of figures in the distance. “There is the Balam Ch’ab’s father, the Ahtzic Uinac, the master storyteller.”

I saw a palanquin among the men and asked him what it was. Palanquins were seldom used and usually only by visiting royal women. My father had an entourage of guards, but it was his custom to walk in the open.

“The Ahtzic Uinac is a frail and elderly man. He would not be able to get around at all, but for his attendants. To accompany you to see the Balam Ch’ab, is beyond his abilities; his training home is deep in the jungle.”

“Why does he need to come along? I don’t want to force a man out of his sickbed just to walk into the jungle with me. Why can’t you walk me there?”

The Cabicacmotz looked at me as if was a fool. After a moment, his face softened and he said, “I forget you are young, Zaki. You never learned how things were done. This is the story-master’s duty. That man has enough will to get out of bed to accompany a prince to his first lesson with the great Balam Ch’ab. He would never pass along this duty, not even to his named successor. So be polite and listen to everything he says. His story will hold lessons for you regarding the changing of a man into a jaguar.”

He climbed down from the roof of the altar and helped me down.

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