After 606 A.D. Yucatan
Kairos 99: Yamaya, the Serpent Queen
The old man and old woman stepped in front of the villagers and bowed to the strangers. They looked uncertain, and some of the villagers behind them looked afraid. Lockhart and Katie tried to smile, and Lockhart thought it was a good thing Decker stayed busy trying to get the wagon through the time gate. Decker’s smile had something of a shark-look to it, or maybe like the way a crocodile smiled right before it ate you.
“We mean you no harm,” Katie said.
“We are just passing through and will go as soon as we are all gathered,” Lockhart tried. He noticed Sukki sat calmly on her horse and the horse stayed still beneath her. Boston’s horse kept wiggling, like he wanted to get moving already. Boston paid little attention as her eyes focused on the amulet that pointed to the next time gate.
Lockhart glanced in the other direction behind him. Elder Stow had his scanner out, searching the farm fields that snaked up the mountainside, and the deep forest ahead of them, in case something ahead might present a danger to them. Lincoln assured them that the Maya had no standing armies, and only raised men to fight when they went to war. Several people said that was fine, but they did not want to walk into a war.
“What is the hold up?” Lincoln asked. Alexis looked content to wait, but Lincoln, and sometimes Decker, could be as impatient as Boston’s horse. Lockhart shrugged and turned his attention back to the older couple. The old woman let out one very soft shriek and looked down at her feet while the old man took one more step forward and spoke.
“I am Aapo.” He bowed. “My wife is Akna.” He bowed again. “This village is our children, mostly, they are our children.” He bowed for a third time. “The great city of Kaminaljuyu, is in that direction.” He pointed off toward a mountain to the right and a little behind the travelers. “How may we serve you?”
“No,” Boston spoke up, and when Lockhart and Katie looked, she pointed north, in the direction they faced. Before Lockhart could respond, the man lifted his brows, almost smiled, and spoke again.
“That way is the great city of Tikal where the feathered dragon king rules over all the cities and the people. Certainly, the messengers of the gods would be most welcome there.”
Decker pushed up from the rear to report. The old man shouted, “I’ic’ ajaw,” and fell to his knees. The old woman let out a little shriek again, and joined him on his knees, though it looked like her old knees did not want to cooperate.
Decker ignored the couple and reported. “We are ready to go, but Tony says the wagon probably won’t make it if we have to drag it through the jungle.”
“What?” Lockhart asked. “Not you,” he said to Decker. He wanted to know what the man said and wondered why his mind did not automatically translate the words into English. That one gift of the Kairos made this journey possible: to understand and be understood no matter the language spoken.
Katie frowned. “I think I’ic’ is the word for black and ajaw is lord, I think. Like a name. Some names don’t translate well. Maybe black lord, or ruler of the blacks or blackness. Maybe Lord of the darkness. Then again, it may be a reference to Africa, like Lord of Africa or something.”
“We get the idea,” Lockhart said, and Decker nodded slowly as he thought about accepting that designation. Katie’s blonde locks and Boston’s red head got plenty of notice from time to time, but mostly Decker, and now Nanette, stood out in some places as something different because of their dark skin.
“Tell him we are looking for Yamaya,” Lincoln shouted from behind.
The woman Akna let out her full shriek and fell to her face. The people behind her also gasped and shrieked, fell to their knees to join their parents, and quite a few of them scanned the skies for something unnamed.
Aapo swallowed before he spoke. “The Serpent Queen. The enemy of Tikal. The thief from Ox Te Tuun, who stole the feathered dragon for Chiik Naab, to burn the great cities of Tikal. Even the Yaknoom, ruler of the enemy city Calakmul of the three stones fears her…” Old man Aapo’s words petered off as he fell silent and got down on his face beside the old woman.
Lockhart frowned and turned to Katie. “Translate?”
Katie shook her head. “My knowledge of Mayan and Mesoamerican languages in general is very limited, but my guess would be mostly names. Ox Te Tuun is probably a city name. Chiik Naab might be a region, or maybe the area that city controls.” She shrugged.
“Lincoln?” Lockhart raised his voice without turning around.
Lincoln got out the database to be sure, but he already read about it, so he related what he remembered. “Tikal and Calakmul are two great cities in the classical Mayan period. They are competitors. Think Athens and Sparta. And like Athens and Sparta, they have different cultures and worldviews. Tikal may have been conquered by a pre-Aztec people in the pre-classical era. That may be the source of the feathered serpent or feathered dragon image. They have a king. Women are merely wives and concubines. Very patriarchal. Calakmul is more classic Mayan, some think. They are the city of the snake—the Kan is the snake symbol. The nobles are even called the divine lords of the snake. I know. The snake versus the serpent can be confusing. Anyway, kings and queens tend to joint rule in Calakmul, though sometimes they have just a king, but women are more equal, and some even fight on the battlefield.”
“Get to the point,” Decker said.
“Mayan cities are independent city-states more or less like the Greeks used to be. Tikal and Calakmul have a network of allied cities that they minimally control, for trade and military purposes. Sometimes, cities switch sides. It’s complicated. But Calakmul and Tikal are the Athens and Sparta—the big players. Yamaya was born in Palenque. Her city got conquered by Calakmul when she was six. She got forced married to the son of the king of Calakmul. She actually became queen of Calakmul for about six years before her husband Cauak died in battle trying to take another city. The younger brother, Chen took the crown, and drove Yamaya into the wilderness of Tikal. The king of Tikal planned to cut her heart out—they all practice human sacrifice here—but she somehow set the feathered serpent of Tikal free from its cage, and they escaped back to the wilderness between the cities, ending up in a smaller city called Uaxactun, if I said that right. Now, both the Athens and Sparta cities are afraid of her because she has some control over the serpent, that is, the dragon.”
Lockhart shook his head. “This isn’t helping,” he said, and looked again at Katie who smiled.
“Quetzalcoatl,” she said, calling him by that name. “Looks like the Kairos found a dragon, and she has both main cities scared of her.” Katie smiled and noticed Aapo looked up and looked curious at the name. Katie tried another name and pointed at Lockhart. “Kukulkan.”
“Gukumatz,” Aapo said, nice and loud, and he almost smiled. Most of the village looked up, and looked pleased, though the old woman shook her head, kept her face pointed toward the dirt, and continued to look scared.
Lockhart still frowned as Decker whispered, “I’m content with Lord of Africa.” He went back to check on the wagon crew.
Lockhart sighed. “Stand up, Aapo. No one is going to eat you.” Even as he spoke, the early morning sun broke free of the hills to bathe the travelers in the light.
Aapo stood slowly. He watched, as Elder Stow pushed up on one side, and Boston, who finally got her horse to settle down, pushed up next to Katie. Boston and Katie pulled out their amulets to compare. They looked like pieces of driftwood, or maybe seashells, shaped like miniature conch shells of some sort. Elder Stow spoke.
“My father. I checked when our friend here mentioned a city on the other side of that mountain. There appears to be a narrow path between here and the city, and from the city, something like a road appears to head north, the way we are headed.” He looked over at Katie, and she nodded and pointed north.
“The highway,” Aapo pointed to the mountain. It is the safe way between Kaminaljuyu and Tikal.” Lockhart nodded as Sukki got down. She found Alexis already headed toward the people. They both ended up beside a nervous Aapo and reached down for the wife.
“Stand up, Akna,” Alexis said. She and Sukki each took one arm of the old woman and lifted her to her feet. The woman still would not look up, and backed up, bowing, until she got surrounded by her children, most of whom were standing again and watching.
“You can take us to Kaminaljuyu?” Katie asked.
“Show us the way?” Lockhart clarified.
“As the gods command,” Aapo said and bowed deeply. Lockhart frowned again, but Lincoln spoke up from behind.
“Good. We can start moving.”