Touch of Rain

Touch of Rain

A Story by rhane118
"

Atzi is chosen to be the human sacrifice for an ancient Aztec rain ceremony. After being shown what escape could mean for her people, will Atzi decide to run or will she decide to die?

"

“Come along now, Atzi,” her mother called over her shoulder. Atzi hurried to catch up with her parents. They were walking towards Teopan to the temples of Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli, dressed in their finest. Atzi’s long black hair hung loose and appeared glossy from the special oil her mother had spread on. Both her skirt and huipil were elaborately embroidered with vibrant thread colors; a task that had taken her a week of constant stitching. It was selection day for Etzalqualiztli the festival celebrated yearly meant to call for rain from Tlaloc. As Atzi and her mother moved through the streets of Tenochtitlan she studied the sky. It was filled with grey clouds; the air was warm and humid. She thought it might rain.

After a short walk, shorter than Atzi would have liked, she and her parents passed through the coatepantli, the large stone wall of carved serpents that surrounded Teopan. They gathered with the rest of the city at the base of the large steps leading to the temples. She looked at the temple of Tlaloc. He was the reason they were there. Atzi scanned the crowd around her. She wondered who would be chosen, who would be missing from the group after tomorrow. Atzi was the correct age, barely sixteen, and she was still a virgin. She could be one of them.

The high priest of Tlaloc, Mazatl, soon walked out from the temple and approached the edge of the stairs. She craned her neck up to see him better above the heads of the adults while the priest looked down at them. He spread his arms wide, displaying the green feathers of the Quetzal woven into his tunic. They stood out in stark contrast to the overcast sky. He opened his mouth to speak and, at that moment, it began to rain.

Atzi stood and felt the cool drops washing over her cheeks. Her name, Atzi, meant rain. It had been raining the day she was born, such a storm that her parents had ever experienced. They had taken it as a sign and named her for the fat drops that has fallen and threatened to overwhelm the dikes protecting Tenochtitlan from the waters of Lake Texcoco. The rain had always been a comfort for Atzi, but today it just filled her with dread.

Mazatl began to speak. “People of the Mexica! It is the time for Etzalqualiztli, and we must pay Tlaloc what He is due so that He may send us rain such as he has today. The rain is a good omen, an omen that He will be generous and accept what we offer Him. Tlaloc shall grant us our rain in exchange for the annual sacrifice. The young man and woman chosen for the ceremony should feel a great sense of pride to be chosen. They carry out a sacred duty that will ensure the survival of our people and our great king’s empire.”

Atzi was only half listening, she’d heard the same speech at every selection and every sacrifice she’d attended. Pride, duty, love for their people. That was what it meant to be chosen, what she should feel. She couldn’t imagine if she’d feel those things if she was chosen. Would she be filled with such a sense of fulfillment that it would become pride in her heart? Atzi hoped she’d never have to find out. She felt something brush her hand, as if trying to hold it. She looked down but saw nothing there. Atzi looked back up and let the feeling go.

She continued to listen as Mazatl described the ceremony. “A young man and a young woman shall be placed in a canoe filled with the hearts of our sacrifices to Tlaloc. They will be sent out into the vast waters of Lake Texcoco where they will be drowned and sent to eternal peace in Tlalocan. If they are worthy their souls will never again have to return to this earth. And now I, high priest of Tlaloc, shall declare the names of those two people who will give their lives in service to the Mexica.”

Atzi held her breath. This was the moment of truth, the moment everyone had gathered for. “The young man who shall perform his duty to his people is,” Mazatl paused for dramatic effect, “Tecocol!” Heads turned as they searched for Tecocol in the crowd. Atzi watched as boy began to walk up the stairs. He appeared to be about her age, but from the distance she couldn’t be certain. The people gathered let up a loud cheer filled with hoots, hollers, and clapping. She herself only clapped, she couldn’t bring herself to cheer for him as he marched up the stairs towards Mazatl, towards his death.

His progress was slow as he climbed the many stairs, but eventually he reached the top. Mazatl gripped his forearm and seemed to nod proudly. He turned Tecocol to face the crowd of people, and the multitudes once again let forth a cheer. From her distance Atzi couldn’t make out Tecocol’s face. She imagined it looking downcast.

The people’s cheer eventually died down until silence swept through Teopan. Mazatl once again spoke. “And the young woman who shall so graciously give herself over to our god so that He may bring us rain and prosperity is,” Mazatl paused once again for effect, “Atzi!”

Atzi’s breath caught in her throat. Her parents turned to her, a mix of pride and sorrow on their faces. People began to part so she could make her way to the stone staircase. Her legs felt like the stone the stairs were carved from; she didn’t know if she could make them move. Her mother squeezed her shoulder as her father gently nudged her forward. There was nothing they could do. Refusing would bring shame and ruin to their family for generations to come, along with the wrath of the gods. That first step was all she needed. Atzi set her mouth into a grim line as she put on a mask of unwavering determination, trying desperately to control herself so her face didn’t betray her true feelings to the people who watched her as she passed.

The falling rain seemed to increase as she reached the steps and began to climb them. She took little solace from the drops that touched her. In those few minutes that had passed Atzi had become numb to the feel of the water. Behind her the people cheered her on as she took one step after another. She didn’t want them to cheer, not for this. Her walk seemed to take ages; she now understood how Tecocol must have felt as he made the very same climb.

She arrived at the top and was greeted by the face of Mazatl. He had dark, beady little eyes and a nose like the beak of bird. His features showed nothing of the subtlety that a deer, his namesake, possessed. Despite being the high priest of Tlaloc a foul odor surrounded him and it took all of Atzi’s self-control not to wrinkle her nose and turn away in disgust. He gripped each of them by the wrist and lifted their arms into the air.

“Tlaloc’s chosen!” Mazatl shouted. The crowd roared in response. Atzi looked down at all the people gathered as they cheered. They looked so small from where she now stood at the top of the pyramid structure. She tried to find her parents among the many faces that stared up at her, but she couldn’t. Atzi imagined that she would never see them again.

After the crowd quieted once again Mazatl said, “Now I dismiss you to your homes to prepare for tomorrow’s festival.” The selection over with people turned and began to pour out of Teopan back into the city streets. Atzi wished she could join them. “You two will come with me,” Mazatl said in a much rougher voice now that the crowd of spectators had departed. His grip was tight on her wrist, and painful.

He jerked their arms as he led them off into the Temple of Tlaloc. Even though she had been inside several times before the interior always struck her. The opulence of it was amazing. The walls, floor, and ceiling were embedded with shards of jade, gold, turquoise, and other precious stones. They formed beautiful murals that seemed to swim around the stone carved statues depicted Tlaloc. Mazatl stopped at the altar in the back of the main chamber. He whispered a prayer and continued to pull them roughly into the back halls. Tecocol and Atzi were shoved into a small back room with a solitary window. It had bars on it.

“You will be confined here until the ceremony tomorrow,” was all the high priest had to say before he slammed the door shut. From the other side of the door Atzi heard a bolt slam home, locking them in.

Atzi sank to her knees on the hard stone floor of the little room. She felt tears spring to her eyes as she thought. She was going to die. There was no hope for her. Above her Tecocol snorted and looked down his nose at her. She turned to look up at him and was met with his cold brown eyes. He gave her a look of utter contempt.

“Stop your crying. You have nothing to shed those measly tears over. You are serving your duty to your people. Instead of crying you should be rejoicing,” he said, his voice icy.

“Are you not afraid of death?” she asked him. “That is what is coming to us tomorrow.”

He kicked her and she fell back. “I don’t fear it. Fear is for cowards and unbelievers. I am neither. Now shut up. I don’t think I can handle the disgusting voice of a coward who would wish not to do service to her people.”

Atzi lifted herself up and propped her back against the stone wall. She could feel pain from where Tecocol had kicked her and from where her shoulder had hit the floor. Tecocol retreated to the other side of the room, as far from her as he possibly could get in the small face. He sent her contemptuous glare and then turned away from her. That was fine with Atzi, she already felt terrible as is.

It was overcast but Atzi assumed that the sun was low in the sky when they were locked in the room. She sat and watched as the world outside the barred window began to grow darker. Tecocol and her had sat in silence, him shooting her a glare on occasion, both lost in her own thoughts. And those thoughts were on escape. She knew that he would eventually fall asleep and she knew that no one would be in to disturb them until early the next morning. She could have decent head start if she managed to make it out of the room. Atzi didn’t know where she would run to but she imagined anywhere would be better than the little room that had become her prison.

Tecocol finally laid down and after a while she heard his measured breathing. He was asleep. Atzi rose unsteadily to her feet; her legs and back were cramped from sitting on the floor for so long. She crept to the door and tested it. The door was locked tight. She turned to the barred window. To get to it she would have to step over Tecocol. She tip-toed her way across the floor. As quietly as she could she went to step over him. He stirred.

Atzi froze in place, her foot hovering over him. She silently begged him not to wake up. Tecocol turned over onto his shoulder and then was still. Letting out a small breath of relief she stepped over him. She appraised the bars with a critical eye. They were embedded in the stone. She gave the first bar a hard pull but it didn’t even budge. She tried the second and got the same result. The third bar was no different. She began to lose hope until she pulled on the last three bars. They were all loose.

Atzi pried them from the window, checking over her shoulder each time she did so to make sure Tecocol was still sleeping. The gap she had made in the window was big enough for her slender frame to fit through. She hoisted herself up onto the ledge and pushed herself through, out into the warm night air. Her feet hit the stone outside and she was off running.

Like the wind she flew around the edge of the temple and down the large flight of steps, not stopping to concentrate on her balance. If she fell then so be it. She was going to die anyway. Atzi ran right through the gates of Teopan and into the city-proper of Tenochtitlan. Sprinting through the streets she tried to make her way to one of the four causeways that would take her to the mainland. On foot they wouldn’t be able to find her. If she’d stolen a canoe then it would have been found and then the trackers would have found her trail. She was thankful that no one was out.

When she reached the entrance to the causeway she stopped. Atzi gulped in air as she tried to catch her breath, not once remembering a time when she had ever run as hard, even as a child. She turned back to see the vast pyramid with the temple sitting atop it. Her heart was filled with shame at what she was doing, the knowledge that she was letting her people down. Part of her almost willed herself to return to her prison but it was overwhelmed by her fear of death. Atzi turned back to the causeway and gasped. Where there had been nothing before there now stood a dark jaguar, blocking her path.

The creature regarded her with golden eyes. Atzi stared dumbfounded. What was she supposed to do? Running would do her no good and there was nothing nearby that she could use as a weapon. She was utterly helpless. Atzi began to back away but the big cat let out a low growl that made her freeze. Suddenly the form began to waver and she watched as the jaguar slowly turned into a man. A man with one foot made of pure obsidian with a black obsidian mirror attached to the front of his chest.

Atzi fell to the ground in a deep bow. “My Lord Tezcatlipoca! I am your humble servant on this earth. Ask of me what you will and I will provide it,” she said to the great god before her.

“Rise and look at me,” He said in a voice that seemed to be all around her. Slowly she got to her feet and met the god’s eyes. His eyes were the same gold as the jaguar’s.

“What is it you wish of me? What could I do that would warrant Your Lordship gracing me with his divine and benevolent presence?” she asked, her voice filled with overwhelming reverence.

Tezcatlipoca’s eerie voice filled the air. “You can make a choice.”

“A choice, My Lord?”

“To run or die,” He said as He removed the obsidian mirror from his chest. “I have come at the wish of one of my brethren to grant you this opportunity to make your choice. Through this mirror I shall use my mirror to pull back the smoke of the future. I will show you two visions, each vision will show you a possible future for the choice you must make. It will be up to you to make the choice, and whatever choice you make will be final and none of the gods will interfere to stop you. Do you understand?”

Atzi nodded her understanding, amazed that a god had taken such an interest in her. “Good. Now look in the mirror and empty your mind. The first vision will result from running.” Atzi did as the god instructed and stared into the mirror, clearing her mind of any distracting thoughts. In the mirror an image began to swirl into focus and in that image she saw sorrow and pain and death. She cried out with the anguish of what she was seeing. She watched as the whole of Tenochtitlan was shaken by an immense earthquake and then swallowed by the earth. It was the ending of the Fifth Sun, the end of her world. Atzi averted her eyes and tried to hold back the tears that were falling from her eyes.

She’d never experienced pain or death on such a scale as that vision had showed her. “That will come to pass if I run?” Atzi sobbed.

Tezcatlipoca watched her with unchanging eyes. “It is a possible future. One of many,” He replied.

“My Lord, then why did the mirror chose to show me that one?” she asked, desperate for an answer that could help heal the guilt that she now felt for ever considering running.

“The mirror chooses what the viewer will see. Now look again for the other possible future will be shown to you,” He commanded.

“Yes, My Lord.” Atzi reluctantly turned her gaze once again to the mirror. She emptied her mind and waited for an image to appear. Nothing happened. She focused a little longer but nothing appeared. The mirror remained its original glossy black color.

She looked up at Tezcatlipoca. “My Lord,” Atzi hesitated, fearing that she was doing something wrong and that was why the mirror wasn’t working.

“Yes?”

“The mirror is showing me nothing. It remains the same as before,” she said, glancing back at the mirror in case she missed something.

Tezcatlipoca nodded knowingly. “As it should. Your second choice is to go back and die. There is no future in death, only the unknown. The mirror cannot show you what is on the other side because it does not know. To find out what awaits then you must die. Only then will your future after death be revealed to you.

“Now you must choose. Run or die.”

Atzi didn’t know what to do. She was afraid of dying. She didn’t know what came after, maybe if she knew then she wouldn’t be so afraid. Perhaps Tecocol was right; she was a coward for wanting to run. She thought about the first vision, of the destruction it had shown. Tezcatlipoca said that it was a possible future. That meant it wasn’t necessarily going to come to pass. But she couldn’t live with the guilt of running. She’d be abandoning her family, her people to the chance of this future. The worry itself would kill her. Atzi now understood her duty.

Her mind made up she faced Tezcatlipoca. “Have you chosen?” He asked.

“I have,” Atzi said, her voice hard as stone. “I have chosen to die.”

Tezcatlipoca nodded. Even though His face didn’t change, Atzi thought that He looked pleased with her answer. His voice surrounded her, “Shut your eyes child and I will return you to your quarters in the temple.”

She did as he commanded and shut her eyes. A feeling of cold seeped through every bone in her body and a harsh wind tugged at her skirt and huipil. She grew dizzy and felt as if she were going to fall over. When the wind died and dizziness passed Atzi opened her eyes. She was back in her little prison of stone. Tecocol was on the floor, still asleep. She looked to the window. The bars were back in their original positions. Atzi sat against the wall again and shut her eyes, awaiting the dawn and her death.

It came sooner than she would’ve liked, but she no longer felt as she did before. Her fear was still there except now she had a resolve to save her people from the future she had seen in Tezcatlipoca’s mirror. Tecocol awoke as the door into their room opened. Mazatl entered, accompanied by several priests of a lower rank. “Come with me,” he said, voice gruff. “It is time to prepare you for the sacrifice at the sun’s highest point.”

Atzi took a quick glance out the window. She didn’t know how Mazatl would be able to tell when that was, the sky was still a dark grey. Tecocol shot her a glare before following the high priest out into the hall. She thought his skin looked paler than it had the day before. They were led to another room with two long slabs of rock in the center. By each rock was a tray with ribbons, feathers, flowers, and other objects piled on top. “Sit.” Mazatl instructed.

And they sat. After that the lower priests began to prepare them. Atzi’s hair was braided and colorful ribbons were woven in. Feathers and flowers were also placed in her hair. Turquoise paint was spread on her face in grace whorls and arcs. She was made to change into a dress of white cloth, embroidered with golden thread. The tray beside her was clear and she saw the last item that she would be made to put on. One of the priests took her wrists and bound them in manacles fashioned from solid gold that was embedded with shards of jade and turquoise. By the time the priests were finished with her and Tecocol, Mazatl had decided that the sky would soon be at its highest point and that it was time they were led to the edge of the lake.

Escorted by the priests of Tlaloc’s temple the two sacrifices made their way through Tenochtitlan. The streets were deserted because everyone was gathered towards the Lake to watch the holy sacrifice. People parted as they neared the dock with the waiting canoe. All of the faces that watched them were somber. Now was not the time for cheering. They were making a serious demand. Atzi noticed that some of the children smiled at her dress and paint. She marveled at how innocent they were.

She smelled the canoe long before she could see it. The air was filled with the strong metal taint that accompanied human blood. When they reached the canoe Atzi was happy that the priests hadn’t fed them anything. The human hearts were piled around the two seats, stacked precariously to the point where the whole pile looked like it might collapse in on itself. “Get in,” Mazatl ordered them in a harsh whisper.

Tecocol got in the canoe first but made no move to help Atzi in. She tried to avoid the hearts as she got in. She was grateful that one of the priests held the canoe steady for her so that it wouldn’t rock and capsize. Mazatl turned to face the gathered multitudes. He raised his voice as he spoke to them. “My fellow Mexica! Today we give these two young people to our god Tlaloc in hopes he will send us more rain so that our fields and crops may be prosperous in the future,” he said, and then held up two sets of golden manacles for their legs. “Let us take a moment to pray and bless these golden chains which shall bind the legs of the sacrifices so that they cannot escape the duty that they are so filled with pride to perform.”

The whole congregation bowed their head. Atzi also bowed her head and prayed silently to Tezcatlipoca and the mysterious god that had given her the choice to run or die. She thanked them for the chance to realize what her true job was. When Mazatl began to speak again she raised her eyes. She glanced at Tecocol. His name meant strenght but at that moment he looked anything but. With each word the high priest spoke his face seemed to get paler and his eyes darted about, first at the people gathered and then out across the lake. She wondered what he was thinking.

Mazatl was concluding his long-winded speech. “And now my fellow people I, the high priest of Tlaloc, do bless this young man and woman and send them Tlalocan!” The man approached the canoe filled with hearts and gave it a shove off into the lake.

Seemingly on its own the canoe began to drift away. Atzi thought it would stop not far from the shore but it kept going until the people gathered on the bank were barely visible in the distance. Then the canoe came to stop. On all sides they were surrounded by nothing but water. Suddenly, by the gods’ magic she supposed, they began to slowly sink into the lake. Soon the edge of the canoe disappeared beneath the surface and the water began to fill in the bottom. It lapped at her legs, wetting her dress.

Atzi looked at Tecocol. She thought he might be sick. “Good luck. I wish you well,” she said to him sincerely despite the way he had treated her back in their prison.

Tecocol looked ready to bolt. “I can’t do this!” he cried. “No! I won’t die!” Atzi wondered if he realized that it was too late for such thoughts. The water was soon up to their shoulders, the magic keeping them in their seats. Tecocol thrashed about, trying to get away. When the water reached her chin, Atzi took one last breath and let her head be submerged.

With her eyes closed her world was dark, not unlike the color of the obsidian mirror that had shown her this future. Through the water she felt Tecocol continuing to struggle. She could just picture his face, the look of absolute panic in the eyes that had looked at her so coldly before. Atzi was afraid as her lungs began to burn with the need to breath but she didn’t try to get away. She knew what was possibly at stake if she didn’t do this. Deep inside she felt a warmth spread through her body and she embraced it welcomingly. Atzi died.

Atzi opened her eyes. For a moment she was disoriented as she looked around. She was standing in front of small lake of crystal clear water. A waterfall fell from a moss covered cliff, the mist creating rainbows in the air. The sun was bright and shown through the canopy of green trees above her casting a warm glow around her. Atzi looked down at herself. She was dressed in the embroidered white dress. Realization hit her. She was in Tlalocan, she was dead.

This certainly wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. She looked around at the beautiful scenery. Atzi heard a noise from behind her. She turned around and came face to face with a young man. It wasn’t Tecocol. He appeared to be about twenty and he was beautiful. A soft, golden light seemed to surround him. He had unruly black hair and striking blue eyes. The mysterious man smiled at her.

“Hello,” he said in a voice like silk. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Who are you?” Atzi asked. In answer the man lifted a hand to the sky. Instantly clouds blocked out the sun and from those clouds fell fat drops of rain. She looked from the sky to the man. She dropped to her knees. “My Lord Tlaloc! I’m sorry I didn’t realize it was you.”

He stepped close to her and touched her shoulder. “Rise, please,” he said gently. She rose and looked into Tlaloc’s blue eyes. She had always thought Tlaloc would appear older than he did.

“My Lord, thank you for allowing me passage into Tlalocan. I only arrived here through the help of Tezcatlipoca and the request of one of your brethren. Please accept my most humble thanks,” Atzi said, her voice almost failing her.

Tlaloc smiled. “It was I who asked him to show you. I wanted you to make the choice to come to me.”

Atzi was startled. “Why would Your Lordship want someone like me?”

“I want you to become my wife,” he said. “I have wanted it since the day Tezcatlipoca foresaw it in his mirror. Since that day I have loved you and have watched over you.”

“I’m sorry, Your Lordship. I don’t understand.” Atzi’s mind raced. She wondered if Tlaloc knew what he was saying, but she didn’t dare question him.

“Atzi,” her name from his mouth sounded strange from his mouth, “please just call me Tlaloc.”

“Yes, Your Lord-- Tlaloc,” his name felt uncomfortable on her lips but she didn’t dare displease him.

He stepped closer to her and placed his hand on her forehead. “Shut your eyes and I shall show you what I mean.” Atzi did as she was told.

In the darkness behind her eyelids visions began to swim before her, visions of her past. First she saw the day she was born. She saw her mother with the midwife, crying out it the pain of labor. Beside her bed stood Tlaloc. Time flashed forward. She was a little girl running around in the rain. Atzi remembered that day. She watched as the younger her stubbed her toe on a large rock. The little girl cried out in severe pain; the toe was broken. Then beside her she saw Tlaloc. He bent down and kissed the broken toe, and the pain instantly vanished. Time moved on and on in as Atzi watched her life fly by. She saw how Tlaloc had been with her everytime it rained. How he had stood guard against the god of pestilence when a great sickness had swept through Tenochtitlan.

With each passing vision it was like a veil was lifted from her eyes and from her heart. Then the final vision it came. It was of her only the day before, standing in the Teopan beneath the great steps. Tlaloc stood beside her and held her hand. Atzi watched as she looked down at what had then felt like a strange phenomena and then back up at Mazatl. How she hadn’t known all along that it was him was astounding to her. She suddenly felt immense love towards Tlaloc, a feeling she’d never experienced before. Her mother had once explained what loving her father was like and now Atzi thought she understood. Her whole life she had been cultivating this bond with Tlaloc, even if from afar. When Tlaloc removed his hand from her forehead she now understood what he felt. Her heart was brimming with the joy of having found him after all this time, but it soon became clouded with the knowledge that she deserved none of this.

“Tlaloc,” Atzi choked back a sob. “I cannot marry you. I love you but I am unworthy of your love. I am weak and I am a coward. I tried to run from you and if it wasn’t for your love I would not be here now.”

Her head fell into her hands and her shoulders were wracked with her sobs. Just when her heart felt the fullest, it had to be broken. Tlaloc gently lifted her chin in his hand. “You are not weak nor are you a coward. You showed true bravery by returning to your prison, to your death, and accepting it with dignity. That, my love, is strength not weakness. Tecocol, the young man you were with, he was weak and a coward hiding behind false bravery. His soul will be returning to earth when his four years are over. You deserve my love more than anyone in the world of the living or the dead and you shall spend the rest of eternity with me if that is what you choose.”

Atzi smiled at his comforting words and deep down she knew he was right. “I will marry you, my love.”

“Thank you, Atzi,” he said and her name no longer sounded strange coming from him.

“I love you, Tlaloc,” she whispered, as she leaned in to kiss him.

© 2016 rhane118


My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

203 Views
Added on April 19, 2016
Last Updated on April 19, 2016
Tags: historical, fantasy, gods, aztec, sacrifices

Author

rhane118
rhane118

PA



About
I've never been great at these things so I'll just give you all the basics: -- I'm a girl -- I love to read and write (obviously) -- I play the violin -- My favorite TV show is Stargate SG-1 --.. more..

Writing
Regret Regret

A Poem by rhane118


A Feather A Feather

A Poem by rhane118