2: Discovery

The city of Merida, capital of the Mexican state, Yucatan. Surrounded by farmlands and dense forests, mainly known for the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza located more inland of the state. Within the city, the Mexican inhabitants continued their day to day lives. Surrounded by the large stone buildings, the stone covered streets smooth with the wear of the people’s feet and vehicles. Among the citizens walked the four Englishmen: Garth, Damien, John and the captain of  the Expedite. Their destination was the same for all travellers and explorers, an inn. This time, a specific inn was being targeted as a meeting site for their fifth party member; a Mexican native.

This man was known throughout the community of central american explorers, his ability to speak a variety of different languages paired with his knowledge of his native lands and customs made him a person of importance. Hired by countless explorers during his life while charging a hefty sum for his services. This man’s contact was given to Garth by his tutor back in Cambridge, a small advantage for the new archaeologist. With the help of the locals and a small pocket map, the group had quickly located their destination with ease.

Upon entry of the inn, the group were hailed by the lone bartender. Already informed of the Englishmen’s arrival, he had informed the group that their translator was waiting in a small meeting room upstairs. Pointing them in the right direction before asking if they would like a waitress to serve them, of course they would accept. The floorboards carefully squeaked under the feet of the explorers, each silence breaking sound reminding the group of the age of this inn. Even the slightly rotten wooden door screamed it’s need for replacement during the entry into the small meeting room, revealing the long wooden table, wall hung candles lined the cracked stone walls as the rays of the setting sun struggled to pass through the small singular window. At the far end of the temple sat the Mexican native. Wearing western clothes of the Mexican populace along with a simple Mayan headdress of feathers and bronze. His wrinkled face and greyed hair suggested this expedition to be the man’s last before retirement.

“So which one of you is Garth McLoughton?” The man spoke out, fluent in the English language while exhibiting an unrecognisable mixed accent. His arms crossed over his chest with some sort of professional aura emitted from his presence.

“I am, it’s nice to meet you, Ikal.” Garth answered, stepping forward with his hand outstretched in order to initiate a handshake. The native kindly dismissed the handshake with a small wave of his hand before pressing it forward as an invitation to the others to sit.

“I am aware of the gist of Garth’s expedition from the letter he had sent me,” Ikal began speaking, sitting back and raising his feet to rest on the table in the process, “Although, time had finally caught up with me. So I may need you to remind me on the plan, once that is done. I suggest you all head to your rooms and rest up, we will leave in the morning.”

With that, the group quickly jumped into their explanations. Introducing Ikal to their professions and goals of the expedition. The general area of Garth’s theorised temple had been outlined, confirming with Ikal the presence of a ‘hidden temple’.

The morning sun calmly provided the city with light, the populace only beginning to fill the streets once more as time slowly progressed into the mid morning hours. John silently sat on the front step of the inn, smoking a cigar as he slowly woke his body up for the journey. Garth, on the other hand, was already arguing with Ikal, his bags of gear sitting around his feet.

“What do you mean we can’t get a cart?” Garth questioned, his voice showing stress and annoyance towards the native.

“The terrain will not allow a cart to get to your temple. We have to go by foot.” Ikal explained, his arms still crossed over his chest while his voice showed forced patience.

“Then how will I transport my gear? Or pick up some samples?”

“You’ll have to carry it yourself.”

“I can’t! You can see how much I have!” Garth’s voice was beginning to raise, he was becoming restless as he slowly paced back and forth. The argument had already grabbed the attention of the little amounts of people who passed by. It was enough to rush Damien to leave his room, his bag filled with everything he needed for the trip.

“What are you arguing about now?” Damien asked, placing his hand on Garth’s shoulder as means of comforting him.

“Garth wants to hire a horse and cart when it won’t be able to withstand the journey.” Ikal summarised, scrunching Garth’s face up even more, his mouth opening prior to a shout but was quickly silenced by Damien’s words,

“Then we’ll just hire some horses, or a donkey. Will that work?”

Silence filled the area around the three, Garth’s face had returned to a small smile as he realised the possibilities of transporting his gear via horseback. Ikal was silenced with no argument against Damien’s logic, the situation was quickly resolved.

“Good, we’ll do that then.”

Before the group organised themselves to carry Garth’s gear to a stable to hire horses, John quickly called out to them, throwing the butt of his cigar to the ground. “Wait, I need to grab something from my room.”

It only took him a couple minutes of running back into the inn before returning. A small bag worn on his back and a Martini-Henry rifle slung over his shoulder. Beside him, the captain of the Expedite, Harold, stood. Also carrying a small bag and a rifle of similar appearance. “Looks like he wants to join us,” John mentioned, motioning towards Harold who stood forward to speak,

“After hearing your plans last night, I’ve grown extremely curious and now I wish to join you.”

“We’re not paying you for-” Garth was cut off by Damien’s quick acceptance,

“The more useful hands, the better. But why do you two need guns?”

“Who knows who we’ll bump in to during our journey. It’s better to be safe than sorry.” John explained, his words accepted by the rest of the group in the form of sensible nods.

“Shall we begin? We should be able to reach the temple by midday,” Ikal concluded, slinging two of Garth’s heavy bags over his shoulders with ease.

It took just under a half hour for the group to travel to the nearest stable and hire some horses, Ikal negotiating with the owner in order to gain a discount on the strongest horses there were to offer. With the transportation and the gear finally in check, the group had finally moved to leave the city, travelling to the north east. Ikal was leading in order to determine the safest path for the horses while Garth rode beside him, his pocket map in hand with the circled area as the destination.

With the city finally left behind them, the group were surrounded by the dense terrain of the dense Yucatan forests. Not a single breeze could be felt, a myriad of smells originating from the fauna while the wildlife filled the air with their calls and sounds. The mid morning sun beamed down on the explorers, forcing sweat to be slowly excreted from sweat glands, their clothes sticking to their backs, a small conversation was only natural to pass the time.

“So how did Garth work out where this temple was? Ikal knows of it’s existence, but it’s not recorded anywhere.” Harold asked, confused at how these graduates had planned their journey from nothing,

“Oh that,” Damien began to reply, “Garth is basically a genius. He was the top of his class and can easily see patterns in anything. There were many archaeological phenomena that was solved by him.”

“That explains a lot of things…” John spoke to himself, his rifle clacking against his back,

“You mean his personality? I guess it’s because he’s really good at seeing fine details and remembering every single one of them, it must be quite stressful.” Damien confirmed, “But he’s still a good guy. As long as it involves information, he’ll work for it. As soon as he came up with this temple-location-theory, he begged me to join.”

“So how did you two meet? You studied history, right?” John asked, it makes sense to see a historian and an archaeologist working together. But, the fact that the two were close, seeming to have known each other for years, that was just unknown.

“We were room mates at Cambridge, that’s all.” The answer was as normal as it can get, “It was a bit queer at first, but once I learned that he’s naturally like that. I started to understand him, in the end we spent a lot of time together. He helped me with my research while I gave him historical evidence for his assignments to make sense to him.”

“Sounds like a great time,” Harold sighed, “I was born in a poor family in Cornwall. I never went to school so I could  help my father with his fishing. That was when I realised the greatness of the seas, forcing me to work towards becoming a sailor.”

John whistled, interested in Harold’s history, “You don’t seem like that kind of class, well done.”

“What about you, Captain Phage?”

“Just call me John,” he sighed, slowly patting the neck of his horse, “I was born into a military family. My father was a soldier, his father was a soldier, and so on. I just followed the tradition. Sadly, the events in Africa really broke my career.”

“I read about that,” Damien rejoined the conversation, “Do you believe any of that hocus pocus stuff?”

“Their pagan beliefs? Of course not, God is not that favouring. At least not to me. I just had to go along with it in case they get hostile,”

“They basically saw you as some god? That would explain how kind they were to you,”

“It seemed more like a wizard, but that’s even more far fetched.”

The three broke into laughter at the thought of John being a wizard, each of them taking turns to throw joking insults towards John, poking at his story. This talk had easily bettered the atmosphere of the suffering heat, the three were even more motivated to reach the temple to the point where they reached their destination early.

Motivation was quickly sucked out of the group’s bodies as they met their destination with a call from Ikal: “We’re here.”

A small pause of confusion followed by the frantic movements of the eyes in the search of a temple brought annoyance to the three. They were expecting a massive stone temple, not some forested area. However, from the looks of where the horses were tied up around a tree and Garth’s quick movements to human-sized hole in a small cliffside suggested the temple to be built within the terrain. Hopefully there would be something amazing within that dark opening. Besides, Garth was already finding something in the floor in front of it.

“That’s strange, there’s some footsteps here. Did people beat us to it?” He questioned, noting the numbers of the footsteps in his notebook.

“Not that I can recall,” Ikal replied, “People must have stumbled across the area.”

“Well let’s hope whatever’s in the hole isn’t taken or damaged. I want some decent samples.” Damien added, preparing a handheld torch from a stick and some rags he had packed in his bag. “Let’s get in there.”

The hallway seemed to go on forever. Infinite darkness flooded the front and back of the group as they walked under two flame torches. Garth was still scribbling notes down on his pad as Ikal lead the group silently. There was a gradual transition from the rotting wood and dirt walls to the stone tunnels. Perfectly squared off with inscriptions carved into parts of the walls as means to tell a story about the leaders of the temple -as translated by Ikal- every single bit of information being copied word for word into the notebook.

As the group walked further and further into the temple, the hallway began to slowly open larger and larger until they had reached a massive opening. A triangle shaped room with lit torches placed in each corner, the walls were covered with Mayan inscriptions as a triangular altar stood in the middle of the room. In one of the three corners of the altar, three strange items stood. One seemed to resemble a scythe, the second held the shape of a spear while having a strange cup placed underneath the blade, as if it was holding the blade. The third, another spear, held six protrusions organised in two alternating triangles with wooden chimes hanging from each protrusion.

“This is your ‘temple'” Ikal welcomed, opening his arms outwards as a form of presentation.

“Is this it? It’s just a room!” John argued,

“I never said it was a temple, you all called it that.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Damien attempted to change the subject by turning to Ikal, “Why don’t you translate the walls before Garth gets impatient.” He gestured to the archaeologist who was rapidly copying the Mayan hieroglyphs.

‘With the destruction of the old world, a new world was formed. Man claimed his land and built his cities. The land was tamed for food and shelter. The new world had become man’s world. However, nature did not allow such acts of destruction, she sent her demons from their realm of desolate flames. The same demons who built this world from the beginning. A war was fought, a war hidden from the populace.’

The next wall, ‘Man used his great intellect to his advantage, if the world can be tamed, then so can it’s creator. Using their great powers, the warrior shamans built their great weapons and trapped the demons inside. It was then that true power had been grasped, these weapons bring the true potential from it’s user, granting him powers beyond anything natural.’

The final wall stopped telling a story, but instead seemed to give rules. ‘A man with no potential has no power, he is food for the demons. A man with full potential, an affinity to the great elements, shall wield his weapon to control the demons and enact their prophecies.’

Garth was completely absorbed in this information, his face lit up with pure inquisitive enjoyment as he noted everything down word for word. With each sentence came a small set of bullet points which attempted to determine their hidden meanings, learning about this strange religious story even grabbed the attention of Damien, who silently examined the spears while listening to Ikal’s echoing words.

“Hey, there’s some more on the altar.” Damien noticed, pointing to the inscriptions at the base of the altar, “We need to know this too.”

“It say’s ‘Here lies the spears of the warrior shamans, they lie in wait for the men of potential to arrive.’ It’s repeated across each side.” Ikal translated, his words dropping Garth’s face into a state of confusion as he tapped his pencil against the paper, struggling to make sense of the inscriptions.

“Wait, why does it say that? Isn’t it explained on the walls?” Garth questioned, expecting Ikal to know the answer, only to be met with a small shrug.

“Is there anything else you want looked in to?”

“Can you give us a moment to look around? We still need samples, and those weapons would be perfect.” Damien answered,

Suddenly, the overly curious sailor grasped his hands around the six-pronged spear, instantly falling into screams of pain. His body jerked randomly as his hands gripped tighter and tighter around the handle. Everyone circled around him, each of them panicking as they attempted to figure out a solution. “We need to pull him from the spear!” Damien called over the screams, wrapping his arms around Harold’s chest. However, this action was quickly halted as a strange high pitch ringing sound could be heard from just touching the man, forcing Damien to jump back in some form of primal fear.

Finally, the screams stopped. Harold’s hands loosened as he dropped to the ground, lifeless. John confirmed his death after attempting to measure his pulse from the neck or feeling for any form of breathing.

“What the fuck happened!?” John called in haste, expecting an explanation from Ikal. However, the native showed no signs of concern, as if he had seen this kind of thing happen before. In fact, his words were an attempt to change the subject.

“Wait, Ikal.” Garth spoke, grabbing the native’s attention, “Do you mind telling us the real translation of the altar?”

Damien flinched in confusion, “What? How do you know he lied?”

“I noted down each glyph and, using the laws of simple sentence structure, I figured out that Ikal translated the same glyph to be something else.” He explained, his eyes glaring at the native who stood petrified. His breath was wavering as he struggled to find a way to counteract Garth’s deduction. His breath then froze as a small click was heard behind him. John had raised his rifle to be pointed at Ikal’s head at point blank.

“It’d be nice if you told us the truth now. I didn’t expect someone to die from a soldier-less spear.” The captain threatened, pushing the barrel to tap Ikal on the back of the head.

“You’re not gonna let me get away with this, aren’t you?” The native sighed, crossing his arms across his chest once again. “I’ll tell you. It’s a prophecy, a prophecy for each trio.”

The three kept silent, waiting for Ikal to translate properly. “He who wields the power of song shall bring the end of the world. He who wields the flames of hell itself shall lead their people to prosperity. He who commands the fallen legions of old shall holds the fate of their people.”

“Alright,” Damien sighed, waving his hand at John as a command to lower his gun. “So apparently these spears have some magical powers and only the people with ‘potential’ can use them? You did something to Harold, didn’t you.”

Ikal stepped back in shock, “No! I wouldn’t do that!” He argued, his usual calm voice raised in denial, his mind working hard in an attempt to figure out a way to convince the three the truth,

“Then explain this,” Garth replied, bringing the group’s attention to him, holding the spear that ‘killed’ Harold. “Am I some special guy now? Or is this just some fear mongering tripe?”

Ikal was speechless, there was no way he could convince the three now. But how can Garth hold the spear? Does that mean that a white man can hold potential to wield these spears? “But last time..” He quickly silenced his spoken thoughts, but it was all too late.

“Last time? Does that mean my thoughts were correct that those footprints were yours? The size and shape was exactly the same. Why did seven people walk in and only you leave?”

“Hey, John, take that scythe.” Damien interrupted, holding the second spear in his hands as he watched John safely walk over and pick up the final weapon. The strange development was too much for Ikal, he was left cornered by the three Englishmen. The spears had somehow been wielded by all three of them. A single tear fell down his cheek before he suddenly bolted forward, running past Garth as he grabbed Harold’s rifle from the floor.

“I don’t want to watch this anymore, I’m sorry, K’inich Janaab Pakal.” Ikal spoke, looking up to the ceiling as he pressed the barrel of the rifle under his chin, pulling the trigger without any second thoughts. Ending his life…

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